4. Contacting the Host

Once you know who the host is, you can begin the process of alerting them to the infringement and getting the works removed.

However, since every host is different, the steps for doing this can be confusing and somewhat tedious. But, if you’re willing to investigate and put in a little bit of work on the problem, you can almost always resolve plagiarism and copyright issues with a minimum amount of mess.

After all, hosts are almost always willing to help, but only if you play by their rules.

Hosts in the United States

If a host is located within the United States (you should see this in the information from part three), then they are bound by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The DMCA has a notice-and-takedown provision which requires hosts to remove or disable access to items which have been reported to be infringing on copyright. Though it’s a very flawed law in many respects, it’s a requirement for dealing with hosts in the United States and, as such, you should be ready for it.

Generally, the best place to look for DMCA contact information in on the host’s site itself. You can typically find it at the bottom of the host’s home page, often in a special “legal” page or under the contact information. Other times, the information is buried in the site’s terms of service or acceptable use policy.

If the host is in the U.S. and doesn’t have DMCA information on their site, the next step is to visit the Copyright Office’s Web site Directory of Service Provider Agents for Notification of Claims of Infringement. You should search the directory for the host you’re dealing with and pull their contact information if it is there. This information is often out of date and is not preferable to information on the host’s site, but is a viable alternative in many cases.

No matter where you find it, since most hosts accept email DMCA notices, you should jot down the email contact information and prepare a formal DMCA notice to send to that address. You can find a stock letter for this here.

Just take the notice, add in your information and send it on. According to the DMCA, the matter should be handled “expeditiously” and usually is. Typically, the content is removed within 48-72 hours though it make take a bit longer under some circumstances.

If the host in question does not accept emailed DMCA notices, simply file it either via fax or snail mail. It might take a little while longer, but it is still considered a valid notice.

If you don’t see your host in the directory, you can typically send a takedown notice via their regular abuse email address. You can often find that by looking at the sites terms of service and searching for the an email address to report violations. It may also be on the host’s contact page.

When you contact the host using this method, go a head and give a full DMCA notice. This is to make sure that the host can legally act on your notice without having to obtain more information. This speeds up the process and ensures that the letter finds its way to the correct person on the other side.

Once you’ve notified the host, wait for them to respond to you and watch the sites for any changes, possibly using a change detection service. Wait at least 96 hours before resending the notice or following up as annoying hosts with repeated complaints does not get a quicker resolution.

Should a host write back saying that they need more information from you, that you need to contact another address or give the information in a different format, follow their instructions and respond as quickly as possible.

Also, remember that you’re seeking the host’s help and that your tone should always be friendly and amicable. Being angry or spewing empty threats will get you nowhere. Be nice, say please and thank you and offer any help that they need from you. If you can create an atmosphere of cooperation, everyone wins.

International Hosts

Keep this fact close to your heart: There is no such thing as international copyright law.

Every country has its own legal code and, even though almost every country on the planet recognizes your copyright as per the Berne Convention of 1978, the rights you have vary wildly from country to country.

That being said, many countries have enacted laws similar to the DMCA in terms of notice and takedown. Those countries include the countries in the EU (though not all member nations have ratified as of this writing), Australia and New Zealand. The format of such a notice will vary from country to country though most will need similar information to the DMCA.

Look up the laws specific to the nation involved when filing a notice.

In countries without a clear notice and takedown system, the best thing you can do is find either the abuse email address (which can be found using Domain Tools) or the report abuse form on the host’s site and send them a very polite letter letting them know the situation. Give them all the information that they need to investigate the matter but make it a personal plea.

Whatever you do, don’t threaten any legal action, as that’s a bluff that will be called immediately, and don’t forget that many people in other countries have a very low opinion of copyright. If you’re polite, helpful and understanding, you’ll find that international hosts will usually respond in kind.

Even if they don’t or can’t help, it’s much nicer to be told no with a soft apology than a string of insults, which has actually happened to me.

Just remember that, when dealing with International hosts in many cases, you have no legal leg to stand on, no stick to wield and nothing but your charm, evidence and the good nature of the plagiarist’s host to help you. Humility works wonders and threats will leave you cold.

But even with that, many cases of international plagiarism go unresolved and, sadly, there’s not much that can be done about that.

Bottom Line

The goal when dealing with hosts is to create an atmosphere of cooperation. Though you might be required to use DMCA notices and stern letters from time to time, the least amount of necessary force produces the quickest results.

Be nice, be friendly and be courteous.

After all, you’re stepping into someone else’s territory and asking them for help. You’re not welcome from the moment you arrive, especially since you’re adding more work for already taxed site admins, so the least you can do is be pleasant about it and make it as painless for them as possible.

It’s really the only way to go.

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