If your copyright is infringed or your work is used without permission by a site connected with the United States, your best course of action may well be to issue a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice. Here’s a handy guide to help you figure out when – and how – to do it.
What is a DMCA takedown notice?
If a person, business or host publishes your work without permission or in breach of a copyright license, you can send that image user a DMCA takedown notice, which is a formal request by or on behalf of the copyright owner, to remove the offending image from the website where it’s published.
If hosts and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) remove infringing content hosted on their server as soon as they are notified, the DMCA grants them ‘safe harbor’ from prosecution. US (and affiliate) courts take DMCA claims very seriously, and failure to act can lead to severe penalties for ISPs or content providers. Accordingly, as an image creator, sending a DMCA takedown notice can sometimes be the quickest and most effective way to get your content removed.
When should I send a DMCA takedown?
As an image owner, you should consider sending a DMCA takedown notice if:
- You are the original owner of the image or the authorized agent of the owner.
- You did not grant a license for your work to be used.
- The site that published your work is connected to the US. (DMCA is a US act.)
- The image user has not responded to your requests to to properly license the image or otherwise remove the image.
- You do not want to engage with the image user directly.
- The unauthorized use was committed by an individual or an entity from whom you are unlikely to recover compensation.
Things to consider before issuing a takedown notice:
What do you want to achieve?
If your main motivation is to be paid fairly for your work, a DMCA takedown notice is not the best first move. Most photographers do not realize that they may be entitled to compensation for use of their work that has already occurred. Note that recovering compensation is usually only possible when the image in question has been used by a commercial enterprise or organization.
If your main or sole motivation is to have your work taken offline, a takedown notice is a great solution.
Is there a more direct route?
To address the sheer volume of illegally distributed content on social media, many platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, have created their own in-house methods for reporting and taking down disputed works.
Is it definitely the same image?
Photos can look similar. Make sure the ‘infringing image’ is definitely the same as your original. Comparing the images’ metadata is one way to do this. Beware: Lodging a false DMCA takedown notice could bring a counterclaim and can be considered perjury.
Ready to send your DMCA takedown?
If you’ve considered the above options and decided that a DMCA takedown notice is the best course of action, think about the best way to send it. Takedown templates are available to download on the DMCA website. Alternatively, services like Pixsy can automate this process.
Protect your images from theft.
To avoid this situation in the first place, consider using active image protection. For the lowdown, check out our top five ways to protect your images from unauthorized use online.
- A DMCA takedown notice is the best way to get your work removed from a (US-based) site using it without permission.
- A DMCA takedown does not lead to compensation, so is generally better suited to situations where your work has been used for non-commercial purposes.
- The big social media platforms have in-house methods for reporting copyright breaches and takedown requests.
- Send the notice yourself by downloading a takedown template from the DMCA website, or use a service like Pixsy, which automates the process.
- Make sure the image is definitely yours. Lodging a false DMCA takedown notice could bring a counterclaim.