How to Send a DMCA Complaint to a Copyright Violator

Should someone have improperly used your copyrighted work (or even improperly used a Creative Commons-licensed work of yours) online, we recommend:

  1. Finding contact information of the individual who posted your work without permission
  2. Sending a polite email asking the person who posted the work remove it from their site or use it properly (e.g. by purchasing it, using only an excerpt, and/or attributing you and linking back to the original work)
  3. Sending a DMCA complaint to the individual directly
  4. Posting an additional warning as a comment on the stolen content (if possible)
  5. Sending DMCA complaints to the individual’s platform or host, ad hosts and affiliate partners, and major search engines

This guide covers steps one through four.

How to Find a Content Thief’s Contact Information

There are two ways to find the contact information of someone who has posted content online.

Method 1: Look for intentionally-posted contact information on the site, which may be found:

  • On an author bio
  • On an “About Us” page
  • On an FAQ page
  • On a Terms of Use page

Method 2: Look behind the scenes with WHOIS tools, enabling you to see information about the individual who registered the site’s domain

  • Google “whois”
  • Select one of the top results
  • Insert the site’s URL into the search bar
  • Look for information about the website’s owner (email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers are commonly listed)

How to Send a Friendly Takedown Request

Many people who publish copied or stolen work do not realize they have done anything wrong. In most of these cases, a friendly message will be sufficient to have your work taken down or properly used/attributed.

These friendly requests can be advantageous, as content shared under ideal circumstances (e.g. properly attributed, purchased, etc.) can help you further disseminate your message and work, gain more followers, and possibly earn some cash*.

To send a takedown request, draft a succinct, polite, but friendly message and send it to the individual in question. If you are not sure what to write, feel free to make use of the template below.

Takedown Request Template

Dear [name],

The [text / image / other] you have published on the following page is copyrighted and used without my permission:

[URL at which the copied content can be found]

It was originally published here:

[URL at which your original content can be found]

I ask that you please remove the content from your site immediately [if desired, offer alternatives here].

If you do not take action within five days, I will file DMCA complaints with you as well as your [host / platform / ad partners] and major search engines.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Potential alternatives to complete removal you may propose:

  • Properly attribute me, [your name as you would like it to be displayed], and link back to the content’s original source.

  • Only include quoted excerpts of my written work (no longer than XXX words), attribute me, [your name as you would like it to be displayed], and link back to the content’s original source.

  • Pay $XX.XX via [your payment method of choice] to [the page or handle through which you can receive payment] for use of the [text, image, audio, etc.] on your site.

How to Send a DMCA Complaint

If the individual who has improperly used your content has not taken adequate action within the number of days you have specified in your takedown request, we recommend sending a DMCA complaint.

Feel free to use the template below.

DMCA Complaint Template

Dear [Name],

This is a Notice of Infringement as authorized in § 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The [description of your stolen content] found at the following URL is an unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted material:

[URL]

The copyrighted material can be found at:

[URL]

Please remove this article immediately or I will file official complaints with [insert thief’s ad host, hosting service, platform, and major search engines here] [OPTIONAL: if you have registered, you may add “as well as the US Copyright Office”].

Sincerely,

[Name]

How to Post an Additional Public Warning

Should your stolen content be posted on a page on which visitors can post comments, you can additionally post a cease and desist message directly on the page for all to see (or at least for the website or blog’s administrator to review).

Warning Message Template for Intellectual Property Infringement

To Whom it May Concern,

This is a Notice of Infringement as authorized in § 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The [describe your text, image, or other stolen content] on this page is an unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted material originally found at: [Your original content’s URL]

Please remove this content immediately or I will file additional complaints with [host or platform name, ad and affiliate partner names] and major search engines [OPTIONAL: if you have registered, you may add “as well as the US Copyright Office”].

Best regards,

[Your Name]

What to Do if You Cannot Find a Content Thief’s Contact Information or Post Comments

If absolutely no means of communication appears to be possible via the website on which your stolen content can be found, do not worry; just proceed to:

  • File complaints with the thief’s affiliate programs and ad host
  • File DMCA complaints with the website’s host or the online publishing platform to which the thief has posted your content
  • File DMCA complaints with search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo

*Note that many content creators and novelists make their books available for free under Creative Commons licenses and still turn a profit. It is not the easiest approach to take, but suffice it to say that you need not be super protective of your work even if you are selling it.