You Stole MY Stuff?? Take THAT You Thieving Little Cockroach!!

Services for Real Estate Pros with SMARTePLANS; Houston, Texas

When you discover someone has ripped off your blogging materials -- this is about how to file a DMCA Notice and have your  materials taken down off their website. 

It is shattering when you find that someone has taken YOUR online blogging materials (photos, text, blog post, article, etc.) and relabeled it with their own name.  You seethe with rightful outrage. Read below to find out how filing a DMCA notice is a practical way of asserting your legal ownership of the materials, and may mollify your anger by allowing you to respond productively.

I was recently reading (and commenting) on a post about copyright infringement and was surprised to read in the comments a considerable amount of misinformation about "what it is", and "what can you do".  [So I'm re-running this post originally published in 2011]

First -- the "What It Is".  This link is to the site --- direct to the FAQ section --- it will give you a quick and informative primer on what exactly your rights are as the creator of original works. 

If you're short on time, I would suggest you hit the top two sections "Copyright in General" and "What Does Copyright Protect" and then skip down to the middle and read "Can I Use Someone Else's Work? Can Someone Else Use Mine?

Secondly - What can you Do?  It depends on the value of the stolen content, an attorney may be beyond your means for this instance.  Or, let's just say you're like me and want to exhaust every avenue available to you - before you call in and pay for outside help.

So, back to what can YOU do?  You know it's yours ... no question.  Well, the obvious answer is you need to identify the property as belonging to you.  So you call the folks using your materials online and politely explain to the infringer that the material is your property ... and either between the two of you it gets worked out, or equally likely, they tell you to go soak your head and hang up on you.

Move to Plan B - The material is being used online, but its unlikely the website where it is posted belongs to the individual poster. Nearly everyone has a hosted website on a third-party's ISP.  So, again, you need to identify the material as your property - only this time you need to identify it to the ISP (the folks who own the servers that hosts that person's website). Why do they care? Because they are required by law to RESPOND TO YOUR NOTICE.

A Little Background - The Short Story:  As the Internet started expanding exponentially copyright holders became increasingly agitated "their stuff" was being stolen and they were sharpening their axes and going after the ISP's - believing ... "look if you guys didn't publish/host this stuff - there wouldn't be any problems - YOU are causing the problem by giving thieves a venue --- and we might add - you greedy skunks are profiting by this. "

And the ISP's countered with "give me a break ...we're a legitimate business and host millions of accounts for a nominal fee, there's no way we can police the content of each and every nimnutz who posts material --- and even if we could... how are we supposed to know who's right? How are we supposed to know who the "real" owner and creator is? We're going to get our socks sued off just for asking questions - its not fair to put us in that position."

Ok - let's take a small field trip to this link that describes the Digital Millennium Copyright Act  -- its provisions and ramifications. 

You can read the whole page (later), but where we really want to get to now is have you go to about the middle of this explanation where it says " Title II Online Copyright Infringement Liability Act"  and click on the OCILLA link.  This is where the rubber-meets-the-road. I wanted to show you where it is so you can come back to read and understand the parameters of a DMCA Notice, and your federal rights as the owner of the originally created material.

The Resolution to our Short Story?  The Feds basically agreed it would put an unnatural burden on ISP's if it held them responsible for sifting thru the varied content on their servers and making judgment calls as to rightful ownership, and they did offer them some protection in this regard from liability.  

HOWEVER this protection (safe harbor) is only extended to them if they:

1/ PROVIDE A MEANS for copyright owners to report infringement

  - and -

 2/ CONSISTENTLY and RAPIDLY respond to these notices from copyright owners.

"If a notice which substantially complies with these requirements is received the OSP must expeditiously remove or disable access to the allegedly infringing material"*

*Excerpted quote from

What is "expeditiously remove" ?  Usually 48 hours ... most of mine have been within 24 hours -- Within 24 hours I've gotten a response from the ISP that the infringing material has been taken down, and usually it is accompanied with an apology from the ISP for my incovenience.

How do you find out the ISP for that website?  Google "Who Is" and you'll be directed to any number of sites that search domain ownership by URL ... type in the URL of the website where you found your material being used without your knowledge or permission.  Look up the server listed (not the domain name registrar but the server); usually the contact info (URL, link or telephone) is also given.

Go to the hoster's site. Most ISP's have ON THEIR SITE a fill-in-the-blanks DMCA Notice form, as well as instructions on how to submit a form so it is routed rapidly within their organization; go there and fill it out. 

You can google DMCA Notice and get a generic form if you have to.  As you read in the OCILLA link above, there are specific items of information you must provide the ISP (under oath) in order for them to respond to your notice. I email the notice and attach a PDF of my original materials proving my claim.

THE END STORY - There are few ISP's on the planet who are going to put their entire operation at risk because some nimnutz put unauthorized material onto their servers that didn't belong to them. 

- Or, -

Who will ignore a properly executed DMCA Notice because they risk invalidating their safe harbor status, which could result in some serious fines, if they don't respond to you.

Many have a 2 or 3 strike rule - if they get 2 or more reports on the same account, they close the account and take down the website (because hosting infringing material likely invalidates the individual's contract with the ISP, --- so the ISP is in the clear).  

Some tell the individual to remove just the (reported) material .. and others take the individual's website offline, telling them since they (the host) have received a DMCA Notice about that site, would they kindly please check ALL their material again before the ISP re-connects the site and re-activates it? [Hint, Hint - you dang well better take everything else you've stolen off of that site now!]

Increasingly, hosters are adopting a zero tolerance stance - that's between the thief and their host.

Now, doesn't that make you feel better, understanding that yes --- you can DO something (if you want to).

Thanks for Stopping By!



 Judith, The Floor Plan Lady



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Thank  you for Stopping By and Visiting, I'd be honored if you would





All content on my blog is my property and is copyrighted. Please do not copy it, but you are welcome to link to it.   SMARTePLANS®  is a federally registered trademark.   

ã 2016 SMARTePLANS®             

Comments (7)

Sandy Padula & Norm Padula, JD, GRI
HomeSmart Realty West & Florida Realty Investments - , CA
Presence, Persistence & Perseverance

Judith Sinnard This blog is extrmely informative and we appreciate the time you spend bringing all this information forward.

Mar 25, 2016 01:29 AM
Judith Sinnard

You're welcome, I think it may help people understand (and navigate) the whole process maybe a bit better.  Thanks for coming by and commenting.

Mar 25, 2016 01:42 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster Real Estate - Gainesville, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

I'm going to have to bookmark this one for when my mind can absorb the depth of knowledge here. Thank you for it.

Mar 25, 2016 06:17 AM
Judith Sinnard

That's one of the very good things about A/R .. bookmarking... and saving things until you need them.  Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Mar 25, 2016 11:24 PM
Debbie Laity
Cedaredge Land Company - Cedaredge, CO
Your Real Estate Resource for Delta County, CO

Hi, Judith...this is great information to share. Thank you. I recently found out another local real estate office is following my blog and not in a nice way. I may have some reason to put your information to use...although I hope not. 

Mar 25, 2016 10:07 AM
Judith Sinnard

Blogging provides a handy reference of ownership as the date of your first use (date upploaded) is well documented.  If they've done it before ... and you've ignored it,  they may claim they had reason to believe you didn't mind .. that they believed they had your tacit approval.  

Mar 25, 2016 11:28 PM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

I once found my words and my photograph copied on a commercial website for a community nearby my home.  I wouldn't have minded so much, had it not been for the fact that they removed my name as author and photographer, and added their own!

Mar 25, 2016 10:17 AM
Judith Sinnard

I would urge all agents who have "community/neighborhood" materials on their blogs/marketing materials to register them (text and original visuals you created) with the USPTO.  You own the copyright because you created the materials -- you do not have to register to "get" the copyright -- it's already yours and proof of ownership is all you need to effect a DMCA as referenced above.  In addition to a DMCA action, a copyright registration allows you to assess DAMAGES to the perpetrator for each occurrence and in the case of  "willful infringement" (as perhaps evidenced by deleting your name and adding theirs) are capped to be no more than $150,000.  Again, if you have marketing materials that are likely to be stolen, register them.

The USPTO website is an excellent source of information.

Mar 25, 2016 11:45 PM
Robert Vegas Bob Swetz
Las Vegas, NV

Hello Judith ...

Love your title and this post is full of so much information and featured to the group:


Mar 29, 2016 05:47 PM
Judith Sinnard

Thank you for the feature ... I think the title pretty much expresses how people feel when they discover they've been ripped off -- and this post gives them choices.  Most copyright theives are serial offenders ... if you stand your ground at the get-go, you fight back not only for yourself, but send a message to them to STOP the behavior --- and may avoid future and similar occurrences.

Mar 29, 2016 09:20 PM
Elyse Berman, PA
LoKation Real Estate - Boca Raton, FL
Boca Raton FL (561) 716-7824

Judith Sinnard Terrific detailed explanation of what to do in case of copyright infringement.  Thank you.  I've boookmarked for future reference.

Mar 31, 2016 04:56 AM
Judith Sinnard

Glad you find it useful. Hopefully you won't have to use it ...but realistically ... you probably will as theft of IP is increasing.  At least now you'll have a going-forward plan of what to do that you may not have had before.

Mar 31, 2016 05:03 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Judith, we are seeing more and more posts like this where our content is being stolen.  Thank you for all this valuable information and have bookmarked it.

Apr 29, 2016 11:47 PM
Judith Sinnard


I have 5 occurrences just this Spring... 5!  Three have been settled and 2 will be going to court. There will be more blogs coming from me  on copyright for sure.  Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Apr 30, 2016 02:30 AM