DMCA Guide For Bloggers: How To Give Sploggers A Run For Their Money

A Judge's Hammer

This guest post was written by Jeremy Steele. Jeremy Steele is a legally minded blogger, programmer, web designer, and Internet lover. He has been blogging on Nusuni Dot Com for about a year, and covers all aspects of blogging.

If you’ve been online for any amount of time, odds are you’ve seen “DMCA” mentioned quite a few times. Maybe you’ve even done some research into it, but do you really know what the DMCA laws are and how they can help you? Here’s a quick’n'dirty DMCA guide for bloggers:

What Is It?

The DMCA, or Digital Millennium Copyright Act, created a procedure that allows copyright holders to get content removed if it infringes their copyright. The laws also created a way for Internet companies to register with the government and be safe guarded against copyright lawsuits that result from their users’ activities, as long as they follow the proper procedure.

You do not have to register with the government to receive copyright protection. That means you can file DMCA takedown notices without registration. However, in the U.S. you still have to register to bring forth a law suit.

Alright, so now that you know the basic gist of the DMCA, let’s get into the meat of the issue:

Who Will Steal My Content?

Sploggers (spam bloggers), that’s who. They set up hundreds of automated sites that read through RSS feeds and illegally republish them. The main goal is to get money or to get links to a make-money site they run. Basically they get rich off of other people’s work. This is why it is so important to fight back against them.

Sploggers do very little manual work beyond setting up a blog and configuring their auto-blogging software, so fighting back is fairly easy. After all, the software runs on a computer – and computers are quite dumb.

The Hunt Is On…

The best way to find out if your content is being stolen is to create a digital fingerprint and search for it on Google. If you use WordPress I highly recommend this plugin. Basically you create a unique identifier (some sort of code) that will appear in your RSS feed. 9 times out of 10 the code will also appear on splogs, so you can easily find it via Google. If you can’t think up a code use some sort of encryption tool, enter your name or your websites name, and encrypt it. Usually the code will be so unique that it will be nowhere else on the entire Internet, so finding it via Google isn’t a problem.

Another way of finding out if your content is being stolen is to check if your images are being hotlinked from splogs. I highly recommend using a little open source script I wrote called Thiefinder. I made Thiefinder after seeing an odd increase in my bandwidth consumption. 3 seconds after installing it my log was filling up with spam blog URLs, so finding splogs was quite easy (yet another reason to use images in blog posts).

Filing A DMCA Takedown Notice

Once you have found a splog, it is time to file a notice. The first step is to understand the basic DMCA procedure:

  1. You send a valid DMCA notice to the web host that is hosting the illegal content.
  2. Once the host gets the notice, they must disable access to the content or remove the content.
  3. Host notifies the infringer.
  4. Infringer can then send a counter-notice to their host, or they can do nothing.
  5. Host sends counter-notice to you, and you have 14 days to file a lawsuit against the splogger in a federal district court. If you fail to do so the content will be put back up.

Most Internet Service Providers stick with the procedure fairly well, others don’t. If you send a notice and nothing happens (or if you get a response like “your RSS feed is public, this isn’t copyright infringement!”), just send the notice again, most of the time a different person will get it and handle it correctly.

Now that you understand the procedure, it is time to find the web host’s contact info (which is easy if it is hosted on Blog Spot or WordPress.com – they are the host in that case). Simply type the URL of the splog into a whois service. Get the IP address of the web site, then search for that. Doing it this way is extremely accurate as it lets you get the registry data for the actual owner of the IP (don’t trust “who hosts this site” services, they can be fairly inaccurate). Scroll down to the Administrative Contact section, get the name of the ISP, visit their site, then look around for DMCA/Copyright info. To be protected by safe harbor they have to provide a way for you to send the notice to them.

The next step is to create the DMCA notice. They say you shouldn’t reinvent the wheel, so I’m not going to go through all of the requirements for DMCA notices (that takes a post in itself) Instead, I’ll link you to some stock letters and a great overview of the DMCA requirements, both hosted on a blog called PlagiarismToday.

For even more example DMCA takedown notices visit Chilling Effects. That is where many companies (like Google) post copies of DMCA notices they receive.

Once you make the notice, double check it and send it to the host according to their instructions. Hopefully the content will get removed, no put-back notice (counter-notice) will be sent, and you can continue with your blogging career.

Important Tips

There’s a few more little tidbits of information you should know before you start a war with a splogger:

DMCA Notices Are Legal Documents!

Filing false DMCA notices is against the law, and you can be held liable for attorney fees if you falsify the information on them. Before sending a notice, double… triple… heck, quadruple check it to make sure everything is correct!

Make Sure It Is Copyright Infringement

There is a little thing called fair use, which basically sets up some ways that someone can legally copy or modify a copyrighted work. This includes using quotes, doing a parody, taking a screenshot of a software product, etc. While fair use technically isn’t a right, many law suits have been won because of it.

If someone is simply quoting you then you shouldn’t file a DMCA notice. Only file them if you are 100% sure it is infringement.

If Unsure Contact A Lawyer

Intellectual Property Lawyers are there for a reason.

More Info

The copyright and DMCA laws and excruciatingly confusing. This is a long post – but even it only covers 5% of the information on the topic. Here’s some more links for you to check out if your interested in the subject:

**Disclosure – I am not a lawyer – I’m just a big fan of the copyright laws.

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This post was written on Guest Blogger’s day.

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