Are you rrrready to RRRRUMMMMBBle?? Time for a copycat smack down!
One way for artists and makers to remove illegal or unethical online copies of their images, designs or written content is with a DMCA "take down" letter. DMCA is short for Digital Millennium Copyright Act .
IPWATCHDOG website has a great article titled, "Sample DMCA Take Down Letter" that explains all the steps along with a sample letter. In summary, "If you are the owner of a copyright you can provide notice to the webhosting company that houses the infringing material, and they will almost always take action."
Your goal is to remove the copyrighted image or information so the item can not be found or sold on that copycat website.
Finding the webhost for the copycat is free and easy. There are several sites that offer this research tool called Whois. It literally only takes seconds. Almost every site that is selling domain names will have a Whois feature. If you feel uncertain, do a test by putting in your own domain name. You will understand the results much better.
Here are a few links for Whois search on different sites:
You can do all the DMCA research and send the letter yourself. It is far simpler and easier than I thought.
I also found a site that will do all the DMCA work for you but there is a fee. "Professional takedowns starting at $199 and "Do It Yourself" takedowns starting at $10 / month!" I have never tried it myself and can not attest to whether they are more effective than just doing this yourself. And I do not endorse a watermark on your images as recommended by this site.
I understand it takes time to file a DMCA. The time is well spent. If artists and makers more assertively protect their work, copycats will be less likely to assume that they can copy our work without repercussions. The first time you do anything it takes a little learning time, but just like anything else, with practice it gets easier and faster.
Online hosting sites such as Etsy and Alibaba.com are not held legally responsible for the items posted on their sites....for all practical purposes, their level of advocacy for your work is non-existent.
Even ETSY (which promotes itself as a craft community-friendly marketplace) is not pro-active regarding copyright protection. In my opinion, Etsy's level of advocacy for its sellers is superficial. Etsy and Alibaba.com are obligated to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), but they routinely claim that they are not accountable for the merchandise on their sites. "They have the benefit of the “Safe Harbor” provision which means that if they implement the procedures dictated by the DMCA, the company cannot be sued themselves for copyright infringement. Regardless, that safe harbor gives Etsy little reason to be proactive in stopping in infringement but only reactive as per the DMCA requirements."
A DMCA notice is relatively easy to do. It is one level of advocacy that you can use to be an advocate for your work. Use the DMCA to take down anything that infringes on your copyright.
More posts about copycats issues coming this week! Stay tuned!