Do you think another law firm has copied your website? Do you believe your hard work and content have been usurped, and someone else is claiming credit? If so, you may have a website copyright infringement claim and probably feel violated, but what can you do? Learn how to protect your law firm’s website content from infringement by reading the rest of today’s post.
What is Website Copyright Infringement?
Copyright infringement happens when someone reproduces, distributes, performs, displays, or turns your work into a derivative product. Someone may copy your images, content, biographies, logos, or branding. The first thing you need to do is determine if infringement did occur.
Did Actual Infringement Take Place?
You must determine if there is actual infringement before taking any action. If content that you created cites a source, like a statute or law review, that is not your original work, so there is no infringement. If your content was outsourced, use plagiarism tools to ensure it is original before taking action. One of the best plagiarism tools is Copyscape, which does not cost much and is one of the most effective ways to determine if your content has been plagiarized. If what is posted on your website is not original, you will want to remove that content and replace it with your original content.
Photos can be tricky as they may have been purchased from stock photo sites. Anyone can buy and use a license fee to post photos to their websites. Check the source of any photos before assuming someone stole them from you. You must confirm that the infringement happened before you take action.
Once you have confirmed that infringement occurred, you should try to record the offending content before it is removed. You can record this content by taking screenshots, downloading the website with HTML/CSS/JS, saving the website, or downloading it as a PDF. It would also be wise to look through records to see when Google indexed your pages so you can prove that you created the content first.
How to Deal With Law Firm Website Copyright Infringement
An intellectual property lawyer and/or a marketing agency will know how to best handle website copyright infringement issues. Some ways to deal with this issue include directly contacting the offender, completing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request, and more.
Directly Contacting the Offender
It is possible that the offender may not be aware that they infringed on your intellectual property and may quickly take it down if you let them know. A polite email may be all that is needed. Written correspondence should inform the offender of the infringement, provide a written record of the offending content, and let the offender know you are aware of the offense and may take legal action if they do not rectify the situation.
Completing the DMCA Takedown Request
If your written request is not honored or you choose not to notify the offender, the next option is to complete a DMCA takedown request. This system allows a copyright owner to inform the web host of infringement. If the host removes the offensive material, they will not be held responsible.
Litigation is not required to complete a DMCA Takedown Request. The steps involved in completing the request include the following:
1. Find the web host – You can usually find the host on the website. If the host is difficult to locate, try tools like IntoDNS.com or WhoIsHosthingThis.com. For these tools, you will need to input the domain name and wait for search results to see who is hosting the site.
2. Contact the web host – After identifying the host, look for their contact information, such as a physical or email address. Sometimes, there is a “legal” link.
3. Prepare a notice and include the following:
- An electronic or physical signature of the representative authorized to enforce the copyright
- Identification of the infringed work
- Your contact information
- An explanation of the infringement
- A statement in good faith that the owner of the copyright did not authorize the content
- The website URL
- A statement that the information is accurate in the notice
The infringer may file a counter-notice with the web host, a Put-Back Notice. This allows the host to publish the removed content again.
Google Takedown Request
Another way to remove the infringed material is to request Google to remove it.
What to expect with a Google takedown request:
- Google will ask you to identify the content’s location – YouTube, Google Search, or Google Ad.
- Google will direct you where to report the infringed content.
- When completing a Google takedown request, the following options are usually selected for most requests: Google Search, Intellectual property issue, copyright infringement, and I Am the Copyright Owner.
- Then, you will select the type of content that has been infringed. Is it a photo, a video, or something else?
- Then, you will provide self-identifying information and specifics about the content.
- You will be asked to provide a digital signature and date and to confirm that what you have provided is true and accurate.
It may take a few days for a Google representative to respond, and they may ask for additional information and verification. Google’s web portal will allow you to track your request’s progress.
Pursue Legal Action
If the takedown requests do not work, you may want to sue the infringer. At this point, you will want to find a qualified intellectual property lawyer.
A lawyer may request that you confirm a few things before taking legal action. They want to ensure you registered your work with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and that you recorded or documented the infringement. These types of cases are usually filed in federal court. You can request that your legal costs are part of your settlement.
Another option is to bring your case to the Copyright Claims Board. This congress-initiated board hears copyright infringement cases, declarations of non-infringement, and misrepresentations in notices and counter-notices of the DMCA.
Digital Marketing Next Steps
Having your firm’s website content stolen is a stressful ordeal that must be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. Do not let the offender keep your content and claim it for their own. In some cases, you may not be able to get the offender to take down the content, but it is always best to try to remove the content from another website if possible.
Annette Choti, Esq. graduated from law school 20 years ago, and is the Founder of Law Quill, a legal digital marketing agency focused on small and solo law firms. Annette wrote the bestselling book Click Magnet: The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide For Law Firms, and hosts the podcast Legal Marketing Lounge. She is a sought-after keynote and CLE speaker throughout the United States and Canada. Annette used to do theatre and professional comedy, which is not so different from the legal field if we are all being honest. Annette can be found on LinkedIn or at at email@example.com.