5 Steps for Dealing with Stubborn Plagiarism Cases

Sometimes, no matter how good you are at dealing with misuses of your content, a case finds itself stuck.

You’ve sent a polite letter asking for the content to be removed, then gotten more stern with a cease and desist and then filed a takedown notice with the host, all as appropriate, and yet the infringing material is still online.

Whether you’ve gotten stern rejections from both the infringer and the host or heard nothing back from either. It is time to take a moment and retool your strategy, Clearly, something isn’t working in this case and it’s time to figure out what, if anything, comes next.

With that in mind, here are five steps you should take if you find yourself hitting up against this wall and how you may still be able to move forward.

1. Evaluate Your Claim

The first step is to take a look at your claim objectively and see if it is as valid as you think it is. If you received letters of rejection from the host or the alleged infringer, take a look at the reasons and try to give them some weight with a clear head.

Many times claims of infringement are rejected because they are either outright wrong or simply too gray. If you’re filing a claim about a use that could be seen as a fair use or might not involve any copyrightable material, it’s best to take a step back and seek an outside opinion.

Technically, if you’ve already filed a takedown notice on a dubious claim, you’ve already exposed yourself to some legal liability but there is no use in making things worse by pressing on.

2. Recheck the Host

Once you are sure that you are in the right on your demand for removal, it is then worthwhile to recheck your information on the host, especially if you didn’t hear anything back from the host at all.

One of two things could have happened:

  1. Incorrect Host: You may have simply contacted the wrong host. Check your host information with both Who Is Hosting This? and Domain Tools (under the “Server Info” tab). You may find you simply contacted the wrong company or contacted a reseller that doesn’t actually control the server or know what to do.
  2. Wrong Contact Info: Many hosts will simply not respond to DMCA notices not sent through the proper channels so make sure you got the correct contact info for the host. Look at the U.S. Copyright Office’s list of designated agents and check the host’s TOS or legal page.

Check those two things carefully and, if needed, try contacting them again.

3. Adsense DMCA

If the host isn’t willing or able to help and the infringer isn’t responding favorably, then the next step may be to try alternative means of resolution including contacting Google Adsense if applicable.

Google Adsense accepts DMCA notices and responds fairly swiftly to them. They do not, however, respond to copyright complaints sent via their regular abuse reporting system.

If the infringing site uses Adsense, or any similar advertising network, this can be a powerful tool for bringing about a swift resolution to the problem.

4. Search Engine DMCAs

Since all four of the major search engines are located within the U.S., they all accept DMCA notices and they all comply with them. This can be a very powerful tool but only should be used sparingly and in cases where the host and the infringer are not cooperating.

Though a search engine DMCA will not remove the content from the Web, it will remove it from the search engines and prevent it from competing unfairly with your original work. It’s not a complete victory by any stretch, but it prevents the person misusing your content from gaining much benefit from it.

5. Get Help

Generally, I frown upon taking cases of plagiarism and copyright infringement public for several reasons, most important two being that it only draws more attention to the infringer, which they likely want, and mobs have a tendency to go too far and create other issues out of otherwise straightforward cases.

However, if there are other copyright holders involved, contacting them may be worthwhile. Where a host or an infringer may be able to ignore one or two upset copyright holders, it gets harder and harder to tune out a chorus of frustration.

It is best to build this campaign without linking publicly to the infringement, however and, if you must, being careful to “nofollow” all links as it may cause the search engines to treat the infringement as the original work.

Bottom Line

The unofficial sixth step in these cases is to simply drop the issue. If the site is not doing any significant harm to you, especially if you’ve filed DMCA notices with the search engines, it is likely best to not invest any more energy in the case.

Though I understand well that we get emotionally invested in our work and, when someone takes it without permission, especially when they plagiarize it, there is a strong emotional response, sometimes one just has to put things in a rational context and move on.

The good news is that these cases are very rare. If you follow the usual steps for dealing with a case of plagiarism or copyright infringement, you’ll most likely find that about 95% of all cases, if not more, are resolved quickly and easily.

Still, it is best to be ready for the few that may need more work. As rare as they are, they can make up the bulk of the headache when protecting your content.

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