Online Copyright Violation – Rap Their Knuckles, and Rap Em’ Hard

With an explosion in the number of blogs and publisher websites on the internet, there has been a rampant increase in problem of online copyright infringement. It won’t be uncommon, if one fine day you find your blog posts, or articles plagiarized by someone on his/her blog or website. The recent stay ordered by the Delhi High Court in the HT Media Group case (blogged by us here), indicates the magnitude of the problem. The fact that the banned websites in this case had the audacity to plagiarize news from HT Media websites, and sell it as their own news feed, says a lot regarding online plagiarism happening in the Indian online space.

Such blatant violation of copyright is frustrating for online content writers, as they find themselves in an absolutely helpless situation. Dragging copyright infringers into a copyright infringement suit sounds implausible, considering the scale of infringement, and damages resulting from such day to day infringement. In the HT Media Group case, the plaintiff (HT Media) has asked for damages in tune of 70 Lakhs from the alleged infringers, thereby justifying, to an extent, the institution of the suit. On the other hand, sending copyright violation notices to an infringer may lead to affording legal costs of a lawyer. In my experience, it is always better to hire a lawyer, who is competent enough to understand the intricacies of copyright laws and infringement. But, such lawyers come at a fee, and hiring just any lawyer does not make much sense. Therefore, for the aforementioned reasons, more and more bloggers have become vary of the content they are posting on their blogs. This is detrimental to the objectives of open publishing, which is actually meant to enc

ourage untamed expression of ideas, thoughts and philosophies, and sharing of knowledge.

However, did you know that there is usually a very easy solution to give such online infringers a rap on their knuckles? Some days back, while I was reading a blog post by one of my favourite bloggers, Gene Quinn, I got to know about utility of DMCA takedown notice. Gene is a US patent attorney and the owner of an IP blog, IPWatchdog. He recently blogged about how he used DMCA takedown notices to bring down a blog (ironically, belonging to an Indian IP service company) having posts completely ripped off from IPWatchdog.

So what exactly is a DMCA takedown notice? To understand DMCA takedown notice, we will have to understand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed by US senate in late 1990’s. The DMCA is a special enactment that criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent copyright measures, and heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. Now, the DMCA provides provisions of limiting liability of the “service provider” (hosting companies, such as Rackspace, Godaddy etc) for copyright infringement by a mechanism known as DMCA takedown notice. More specifically, the DMCA takedown notice mechanism allows copyright owners to send notices to the service providers informing about websites and blogs, allegedly having infringing material, hosted or cached on their servers. On notification, if the service providers act swiftly and remove the alleged infringing content, then they become immune from any copyright infringement suit later brought by the copyright owner.

Now, it should be understood that most of the blogs and websites, are hosted on servers of US based service providers, which are bound by the DMCA to act against such notices, even if the copyright owner is based outside US. In other words, an Indian complainant, like you and me, can very well send notices to US based service providers to act against a copyright infringement, irrespective of the fact that the blog/website owner is based in US or not. The only thing that matters is that the hosting company is of US origin. All we have to do is find the name of the service provider from a database, such as Whois.net, and send a standard notice (see Template below sourced from www.google.com) to the service provider by fax or by mail. Sending via email is not usually permitted.

Format of standard Takedown notice (Source: www.google.com) is as provided below. A sample takedown notice received by Google can be accessed here.

  1. Identify in sufficient detail the copyrighted work that you believe has been infringed upon (for example, “The copyrighted work at issue is the text that appears on http://www.abcd.com/1234_page.html”) or other information sufficient to specify the copyrighted work being infringed (for example, “The copyrighted work at issue is the “Touch Not This Cat” by Dudley Smith, published by Smith Publishing, ISBN #0123456789″).
  2. Identify the material that you claim is infringing the copyrighted work listed in item #1 above.
  3. Provide information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact you (email address is preferred).
  4. Provide information, if possible, sufficient to permit the service provider to notify the owner/administrator of the allegedly infringing webpage or other content (email address is preferred).
  5. Include the following statement: “I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”
  6. Include the following statement: “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.”
  7. Sign the paper.
  8. Send the written communication or fax it to the address of the service provider.

So next time you see violation of your copyright, please step up and send the DMCA notice, and rap their knuckles and rap em’ hard!

Image from here

Sample DMCA takedown notice

Sample-DMCA-Takedown-Notice-for-Scribdcom