A Case of Dealing with Internet Copyright Infringement
My First Experience with Internet Copyright Infringement
Let me start off by saying that I am in no way an expert in copyright law nor do I claim to be someone skilled in writing content for money. I'm just an average guy attempting to express my ideas, write some informative content, and hone my writing skills. If by chance I'm able to make some money by doing that, then so be it, but I don't expect it. However, it does irk me when I find that someone has taken what I've spent time and effort on (rather than spending it on something else), copied it, and used it for their own benefit without my permission, or knowledge for that matter. Such is my first experience with internet copyright infringement. Of course, I'd thought of it before - I've seen the disclaimers before telling you not to copy content or to properly source your content, but I never really paid attention because it wasn't something I was doing. It's still not something I do, but I have been affected by it now because someone thought that a good business model includes ripping content from the web and using it as their own. I hope that you don't have to experience this, but undoubtedly if you author web content for long enough you probably will.
How I Found the Infringer
In a somewhat narcissistic manner, I stumbled upon my copied content after performing a Google search on one of my hubs. No, I don't have any special tools to check the SERPs of my hubs because I'm still a relative noob and I just like to see where I'm at. Yes, I could probably save time by using some tool, but I don't have that tool and haven't searched for anything like it yet so this is my method. Anyway, I did a somewhat longer tail keyword search and up popped two links at the top of the page with similar looking titles. On closer inspection,I found that they had the same title! Cool! Someone had linked to my hub, a free backlink...wrong! Upon clicking the link I found a fairly clean looking site with some ad content and some feeds and such and then I began reading the text on the page. The more I read, the more familiar it sounded, and the more I began to realize that this was my writing that had been copied word for word! Conveniently, every single reference that was associated with Hubpages had disappeared - no author name, no related articles, no link back to my article, nothing. This website went as far as copying the exact title of my hub as well. (I later found out that this was probably a bot that ripped my content, stripped it clean of any reference to me or Hubpages so as to avoid being detected, and reposted on the offending website with its own ads). Do people really think that they can get away with this? I guess if I hadn't done this particular search I may never have known, but wow, that doesn't sound like a plan that would work for very long.
Tracking Down Who to Complain To and What Could Be Done
Of course my first reaction was "What the *$^%^, I'm sending this clown an email and telling him to take this stuff down!" And of course, there was no, and I mean no, contact information at all on the page. I went to the top-level domain and again found no contact information. Now, it started to dawn on me that this must be some sort of scammer that has done this before. My next thought was that even if I could find someone on the site to email, they'd probably just ignore it anyway if they're the ones doing the copyright infringement.
So, I posted a question on Hubpages to see if anyone had experienced this before and did a little searching through the forum. I got some good feedback from my fellow hubbers and some decent info from the forum and began the process of tracking down the host of the infringing domain and preparing a cease and desist letter. Admittedly, I wasn't too familiar with how to find the host of a domain, nor had a ever prepared a cease and desist letter (however, I had heard of one :). If you simply type in Whois into any search engine, numerous sites with the capability of finding the domain registrar and host will pop up. I ended up using several just because I'd never done it before - they included DomainTools.com, Whois.net, kloth.net, and arin.net, but there are many to choose from.
DMCA - Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Had I ever heard of DMCA before I began this episode of dealing with copyright infringement...no. Reflecting on it however, this is probably responsible for all those 'don't pirate music or movies' television announcements that I've seen, but I guess I never really payed that much attention to it. While I'm still really not that familiar with the details, I do know that under DMCA you are required to provide certain information to the service provider, or host, of a website at which you are directing an internet copyright infringement complaint. This is fairly straightforward, but there may be slight differences in what you need to provide depending on who the host of the website is or if you're sending the notice directly to the webmaster of the site. In my case, the host had a specific format in which it required my information. This included the name and URL of the infringing website and a description of the copyrighted content, the URL of the location of the original copyrighted material, a couple statements assuring that I was making the claim in good faith and that all the information was accurate, and the part that I got hung up on. I was required to provide my name, phone number, and address in order to complete the form and this personal information was then going to be forwarded to the infringer! Now, as I mentioned, I'm not that familiar with the DMCA rules, but I just don't like the idea of giving that information to someone who has stolen something from me - how does that make sense? In order to withhold that information, I would need an attorney to file the claim for me and provide their own information.
Sending the Cease and Desist Notice
In the end, I couldn't find the logic in providing my personal information to someone who had potentially scammed me, so I wound up sending a cease and desist notice to the webmaster (which I had found through the Whois process mentioned above). In this letter, I included many of the same things that I would have sent to the web host, just not my personal information. This method turned out to be successful, even though the terms of my notice weren't completely fulfilled - the infringing content was removed and no more of my content has been copied, and that's all I really was asking for. I went through quite an ordeal trying to hunt down the host and formulating a cease and desist notice in compliance with DMCA protocol, but in the end I learned some valuable information. Hopefully I never have to use it again.
I hope you never encounter internet copyright infringement, but it's definitely out there and can truly affect anyone that publishes content online. I only had 10 articles at the time my content was copied!
Feel free to comment if you've had your own experience with copyright infringement or you have suggestions. Thanks!