The web represents perhaps the simplest method for exchanging information ever invented. This simplicity doesn’t mean there aren’t people who will abuse the medium. Some people just can’t resist.
If someone is infringing on your copyright by republishing parts of it on their website, you can get that site removed from Google for the copyright violation.
Copyright is the right to copy and distribute a tangible, fixed work. In the case of a website, this includes items such as the text on the site, photos, graphics, and even HTML code.
There are individuals who will employ software programs known as scrapers. These programs go out and search the web for content based on keywords supplied by the person operating the program. When they find the content, they copy it and republish it on their site. The goal is to generate traffic to the site and make money off of it through affiliate programs.
You should always be monitoring the web for people stealing your content. Using a service such as Copyscape is an easy method for doing it. When you discover a site infringing on your copyright, and you will, it is important to act quickly to fight back against the site.
Removed From Google
The Copyright Act of 1976 was a great law. Unfortunately, the Internet did not exist in 1976. When the web exploded onto the scene, traditional copyright law became antiquated.
Congress took years to fix the problem. It eventually did so by passing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [“DMCA”]. President Clinton signed it into law in 1998.
The DMCA contains a process for dealing with copyright infringement online. The Act gives transitory sites such as Google immunity from being sued for copyright infringement for third-party content. To maintain this protection, the Googles of the world must follow a detailed compliance process when receiving copyright complaints.
If you are aware of a site stealing your content, you can file a copyright “takedown” notice identifying the offending website with the DMCA agent for Google. Google will automatically remove the offending pages from its database as required under the DMCA. The story does not end here, however.
Google will also send a notice to the offending site-owner if possible, often through the Google webmaster tools account. The person has the option of contesting the complaint via a counter-complaint. If this occurs, Google will let you know. You then have 14 days to file a lawsuit against the copyright infringer. If you do not, Google has no choice but to return the pages of the offending website to the rankings.
I cannot emphasize how important it is to conduct a legal analysis prior to filing a DMCA complaint. Why? There are many instances in which a person can legally copy and repost your content. Examples include everything from using it for education purposes to public commentary to even a parody.
Let’s consider an example. The television shows Robot Chicken and Family Guy regularly do parodies of the Star Wars films. How do they not get sued to the high heavens by George Lucas or, now, Disney? A parody is an allowed use of a copyrighted work.
If you file a DMCA complaint when the allegedly infringing party is using it in a legally accepted manner, you could be walking into an expensive lawsuit. Google controls a significant percentage of all the searches conducted online. If you wrongfully force a site out of the rankings, damage claims can be substantial.
The DMCA is a complicated law. If you feel another site is infringing on your copyright, contact me today to learn more about your options.
Richard A. Chapo, Esq.