How To Respond To Someone Ripping Off Your Blog

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A site called YourDailyTech (not linking, for reasons that will soon become clear) was caught out recently for posting content that other people had written, without their permission. They’d copied pieces written by Keith Townsend, Chris Evens, as well as things on corporate blogs from SimpliVity, and apparently EMC and Cisco as well.

This is simple copyright infringement, and the big companies have legal counsel who can deal with it for them, but what is a simple blogger to do?

It turns out YDT had also copied a couple of pieces I’d written for Forbes. I retain the copyright in things I write for Forbes (they get a limited exclusivity period) which means that enforcing the copyright is my problem, not theirs. Sadly, it happens often enough that I’ve got a process now, which I’ll share so that others can understand what to do.

Note that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. If you want legal advice, go pay money for a legal professional to advise you, don’t just read stuff on the Internet. I could be a dog.

DMCA Takedowns

In 1998, the USA passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Title II is called the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act, which is the bit that includes what have become known as DMCA Takedown notices. In essence, it means ISPs aren’t liable for copyright infringement by their customers provided they do certain things, such as responding to notification that one of their customers is infringing copyright.

Any copyright holder can send a DMCA takedown notice, and if you wrote something in your blog, that means you!

Who To Contact

To send a notice, you need to know who to send it to. That’s not very difficult to find out, as it happens. You can look up who owns the website using a command line tool called whois, like this:

whois www.naughtyinfringer.com

If you don’t have access to these command line tools, you can use a web service like this one.

That will tell you who the domain name registrar is, and hopefully the administrative contact for the domain itself. That’s the person who runs the infringing website, and you can contact them directly if you want.

But to send a DMCA takedown, you need the ISP contact. All reputable ISPs have an abuse service, usually with an abuse@ email address.

But the domain registrar may not be the people actually hosting the site. To find that out, we need to find the IP that the website is using, and then find the ISP that IP is assigned to.

It’s pretty easy. Firstly, use nslookup or dig to find the IP of the website:

dig www.naughtyinfringer.com

And then look up that IP with whois to find the ISP contact details:

whois 192.168.x.x

and look for the abuse@ email.

One word of caution: some sites used a Content Delivery Network like CloudFlare to proxy their content and handle load. CloudFlare, and services like it, don’t host the original content, so you need to find the site that sits behind them. The domain name whois information is likely to give you clues, since infringers tend to use the DNS hosting service of wherever they host the website itself.

Once you have the appropriate contact email, you can send them your takedown notice.

Takedown Notice Content

This article at IPwatchdog.com explains what needs to be included in a DMCA takedown notice, and provides a sample letter. I used that as a template for what I send.

I also found this site that can generate the notice for you. There’s another example notice here.

Christian Mohn also wrote about this sorry situation here, and he included a link to another set of examples, but this one includes an example Cease and Desist letter.

DMCA Takedown Services

There are some sites out there offering takedown services, which purport to do a lot of this for you. I’ve looked at a couple of them, and they don’t seem to do much other than give you an ugly image to stick on your site to attempt to scare off people who might copy your stuff, and some minimal assistance with creating a DMCA takedown notice. They don’t seem to really help you find people infringing your copyright, or help you find their contact details.

For my money, I prefer doing a couple of lookups and firing off a quick email. I’ve had good results so far. You could always go the lawyers-at-ten-paces thing later if the polite-but-firm approach doesn’t work. That’s not cheap, but hey, if the level of infringement is substantial, maybe it’s worthwhile? The makers of Dallas Buyer’s Club seem to thing it’s worth spending money on.

The YDT site is offline at time of writing. You can see their initial ‘apology’ thanks to Google Cache here but it looks like once a few of us starting bringing up the legal ramifications to what they’d done, they ran away. Huzzah! 

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