So you are cruising the web and you find someone is using one of your photographs, and without your permission. What can you do about it? You might want to rush out and call an attorney, but if you didn't register your photograph with the copyright office before the infringement you won't be eligible for statutory damages. An attorney might take the case, but you'll probably need to pay him an hourly fee to pursue any action. You could send a cease-and-desist letter, but that will probably get you nowhere.
Fortunately, there is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, otherwise known as the DMCA. The DMCA provides that an Internet Service Provider (ISP), such as Apple or Google, must remove materials on their users' websites that appear to constitute copyright infringement if they receive proper notice of the infringement. And, fortunately, your photograph or other original material doesn't have to be registered with the Copyright Office for you to take advantage of the DMCA.
Find the ISP hosting the site
If you find a site that has posted one of your photographs without permission, track down the ISP that is hosting it to report the infringement. The ISP is required to make the site's agent's name and address available so you can send it a DMCA takedown notice.
Some sites provide their contact information for DMCA complaints right on their home page. Flickr has a link to "Report Abuse" at the bottom of its page.
Drafting your DMCA takedown notice
Your takedown notice must include certain things. Specifically, it must:
- Be in writing;
- Be signed by you, the copyright owner, or your agent;
- Identify the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed;
- Identify the material infringing your work;
- Include your contact information;
- State that your complaint is made in "good faith";
- State that "under penalty of perjury, that the information contained in the notification is accurate"; and
- State that you have the right to proceed (because you're the owner or the owner's agent).
Your notice might look somewhat like this:
Via email: Ivebeeninfringed@isp.com
RE: DMCA – Copyright Claim
To Whom It May Concern [ISP Hosting Company]:
I am the copyright owner of the photograph located at: [url of the infringing page]. I have attached a copy of the infringed photograph.
This letter is sent under the provisions of Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to effect removal of the photograph from the cited web location. I ask that you remove the specified posting and prevent the infringer, identified by the web address, from posting this photograph to your servers in the future. Note that the law requires that you "expeditiously remove or disable access to" the infringing photograph upon receipt of this letter. Your noncompliance may result in your loss of immunity under the DMCA.
I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner I've complained of here isn't authorized by me, the copyright holder, or the law. The information I've provided is accurate to the best of my knowledge and I swear under penalty of perjury that I am the copyright holder.
Please confirm to me the actions you have taken to resolve this dispute.
/s/ Copyright holder