What To Do If Someone Steals Your Digital Content

You put a lot of time into producing good content and someone turns around and republishes it verbatim elsewhere online. If this happens to you, here’s how you can handle it.

Note the website URL

Send a Cease and Desist Letter

The following is an ordered list of where to send a Cease and Desist letter. If you get crickets at one step, escalate it to the next until you get a response. The hope is to get a response without involving your attorney, which is why that option is last. However, involve legal counsel if you must and be absolutely vigilant and go to whatever lengths necessary to protect your intellectual property. Content theft is a serious matter and should be dealt with swiftly and severely.

  1. Contact website owner/manager
    Most websites offer a Contact Us page, or some way to contact them i.e., email, phone, social. Use one of these methods to send the web manager a Cease and Desist letter. If you don’t get a reply, or things bounce, escalate to step 2.
  2. Contact the domain registry
    You can probably skip this step and go directly to step 3 but it’s worth mentioning. This is where the domain was purchased and may or may not be the same company where the website is hosted. To identify the name of the registry, use whois.com. Open a ticket with the registry to share the issue and in it, include a list of links to content you own and a list of links to content you own that’s been copied by the offending party. If things don’t progress at this stage, escalate to step 3.
  3. Contact the hosting company
    If you’re unsuccessful in your attempts to get a response up to this point, this is where you’re likely to see results. To identify the name of the hosting company, open a support ticket with your own web host to inform them of the issue and ask them to help identify the host name of the offending website. Hosting companies are likely to respond to Cease and Desist letters almost immediately. Nobody wants to be sued and legal liabilities could be crippling in cases like this. Same as your attempt at step 2, share a list of links to content you own and a list of links to content you own that’s been copied by the offending party. If you don’t find success at this stage, escalate to step 4.
  4. Contact your IP Attorney
    Hopefully, it doesn’t have to get this far because this is where things get expensive. However, your attorney will help you identify next steps if not manage the whole process for a healthy fee.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely prevent digital copyright infringement but managing it doesn’t have to be more complicated than the instructions provided here.

Author: Patrick Greenough

I write and speak about marketing, leadership, and technology.

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