I see people complaining about stolen content all the time on Facebook groups and internet forums. It’s incredibly common.
I’ve had my content stolen, and if you have content online, then it’s likely to happen to you at some point as well. Copying and pasting or ripping off videos is so easy that plenty of unethical people do it. Of course, it’s infuriating when someone steals your work and claims it as their own, but it doesn’t mean that you’re helpless in the situation.
The law provides protections for your content, and some options can be both fast and effective at getting pirated content removed from the internet.
It doesn’t matter whether you produce video, audio or written content — if you produce content and publish it online, you should know what options are available to deal with it.
Related: Answers to 3 Tough Copyright Questions
Your works are automatically copyrighted
If you publish in the United States, most of your work will be automatically copyrighted as soon as they are created — you don’t need to do anything else
The categories of copyrighted works include the following.
- Sound recordings.
- Architectural works.
- Movies and other AV works.
- Graphic, pictorial and sculptural works.
- Choreographic and pantomime works.
- Musical works.
- Dramatic works.
- Literary works.
The categories above cover computer programs, software and online courses. Recipes are not covered under copyright.
When you produce a covered work, you are the owner of that work unless you specifically sign over your rights to someone else. You don’t have to do anything extra or register your work with the copyright office, although there are some situations where it is to your advantage to register your work.
In particular, if you want to be able to sue for damages if your work is stolen, then you should register your work with the copyright office. Your compensation is limited if you register your work after an infringement occurs.
Before you get mad, remember fair use
There is no clear-cut definition of fair use in the law, but fair use allows people to use your work unlicensed in very specific circumstances.
Generally speaking, if someone is using a small excerpt of your work to make a point or provide context within a larger work, that is considered fair use.
If your work is being used in this way, it is unlikely to be considered copyright infringement — even though fair use cases are decided individually.
Related: Why You Should Consider Copyrighting Your Work
Getting copies of your work taken down
If someone copies your work, you can sue them in federal court or submit a claim through the Copyright Claims Board (CCB). But this process can be drawn out, and it can also get expensive if you have to hire a lawyer.
There are faster and cheaper ways to get your pirated content taken off the web and protected.
1. Ask the person who is posting your content
Sometimes a polite request is all you need to get content taken down. It doesn’t work every time, but asking someone works often enough that it is worth giving a try.
You can usually find contact information on the contact page on a website, and you can contact someone through a private message or the comments section on a site like Facebook or YouTube.
2. Try a DMCA takedown
DMCA stands for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This law is designed to prevent the theft of copyrighted materials.
The easiest way to initiate a DMCA takedown is to contact the hosting company of a website. You can find out where a website is hosted by looking up its WHOIS data.
You can also ask companies such as Google to take down content under DMCA.
If you can’t find the host, then you can file a DMCA complaint. This method also works but is slower and requires you to pay a fee.
For many online copyright violations, a DMCA takedown is the fastest and easiest way to get stolen content taken off the internet.
3. Submit a YouTube copyright strike.
If you use YouTube to distribute content, you can have them monitor the rest of YouTube to see if there are any copied videos on the platform. You do this using the YouTube Content ID tool.
You can block the copied content from being viewed, monetize the copied content with your ads, or even track the views on the copied content. What happens with the Content ID tool is determined by your settings.
If you don’t publish on YouTube and someone posts your content there, you can still take action by submitting a copyright removal request. If the content in question meets the criteria of stolen content, YouTube will remove it from its system.
Related: The Basics of Protecting Your Intellectual Property, Explained
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