How to File a DMCA Complaint to Resolve Website Content Scraping Issues

This tutorial will discuss the details of filing a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint to resolve website content scraping issues. Bear in mind that if left unattended, a lot of websites known as “scrapers” will continue to take advantage of your content. In the long run, this can affect your website’s reputation, especially in the search results.

The worst-case scenario is that these scrapers end up ranking higher than your website in the search engines and getting organic traffic from your content and the hard work you put into it.

First Step: Website Content Ownership Legality Requirements

Before moving forward with a DMCA complaint, it is an important to establish ownership of your website’s content. You can only file a DMCA or copyright infringement complaint on another website if you have sufficient evidence to prove website content ownership. This may go beyond the normal copyright notice at the footer of your website.

Below are the best practices or things you need to have to establish your ownership of your website content.

1. Use your full name (first name, middle initial and last name) as the registrant of the website. If you are filing a complaint against an infringing website, intermediary agencies (hosting companies, for example) will confirm domain ownership by doing a whois lookup (www.domaintools.com).  

If your website is owned by a corporation, use the official business name registered with government agencies. It also follows in most cases that the domain registrant holds the right to the website content. For example, microsoft.com is owned by Microsoft Corporation, and so is the text content in it.

2. Include a copyright notice in your website footer, with the year starting from when your website was first published up to the present year. Use your full name. For example:

Copyright © 2009 – 2011 John H. Doe

3. Include in your website terms and conditions, lines that read like this:

“The entire content of this website is copyrighted to John H. Doe and should never be reproduced/copied to another website without written authorization from the owner”

“Websites that are scraping content in the form of RSS feeds, bots, or manual methods will be reported to their web host with a DMCA take down notice.”

Another approach is to require them to link to your website whenever they copy content. Make sure you state this clearly in your website terms and conditions. You can also grant permission only to “related” websites. This method can earn you back links and can be a good link baiting technique. But make sure to have them ask permission from you first, before they can copy anything.

4. Do not include published materials created by another person or entity if you have not read licenses regarding their use or have no written agreement between the third party creator.

A common example is when you hire someone to write content for your website or design the website (including associated graphics, etc). Make sure they sign a “work for hire agreement” (http://www.copylaw.com/forms/Workhire.html). This is written evidence that you own the work, and not them.

Another example is when you are using graphics or images from other websites, such as Wikipedia or Flickr. Make sure you read the licenses attached to them carefully, and that you follow any rules that constitute proper usage (e.g. you should include credits and attribution as the original author requires).

When you are filing a DMCA complaint against another website, it will be risky to establish website content ownership if you have not settled the above legal requirements.

Second Step: Detect website content scrapers and gather evidence

You will be required to state the URLs of infringing website pages where your content has been copied if you intend to file at DMCA complaint. So it is important to detect them and make a list. There are a number of ways you can find these pages.

Google search engine – You can paste a sample text snippet of your website in the Google search engine to find other websites with that text. You will then need to visit and examine the pages in detail to determine whether only a portion of the text has been copied, or most of your website content are re-published without permission.You need to enclose the sample text snippet taken from your website content within quotation marks to find an exact match in Google. Screen shot:

Copyscape – You can enter your URL into copyscape (http://www.copyscape.com/) to find duplicate copies of its content the Internet.

Google Feedburner - If you are using Google Feedburner, you can log in to your Feedburner account and then click your website in the dashboard. Next, click “Uncommon uses” under “Feed Stats.” It will list some URLS that may be scraping your content using feeds.

Once you have identified the scrapers by using any of those methods, it is important to list all of the URLs of the infringing website pages that are substantially copying your content. In most cases, content scrapers employ such techniques or programs to automatically create posts based on the scraped content.

If there are lots URLs involved, you can use Google to search the entire infringing site. In the search box, enter this command:

site:infringingwebsite.com

It will list all of its indexed pages. You will then need to examine the title tags of that content one by one and identify your content in the list. Make a summary that includes the URLs which you will be using to file a complaint.

Third Step: Contact infringing website

Filing a DMCA complaint can be a serious legal issue. At worst, it may require the assistance of lawyers in the process, which can be expensive. Before you dig more deeply into this, it might be worth the time to contact the infringing website and let them know about this issue.

You will need to research the infringing website’s contact information. There are a couple of ways you may be able to contact them. First, visit their website and see if they have any contact pages. Contact them using the online forms or email address they provide. It might also be useful to check the whois information of the infringing website (explained below).

What information should you send? First, let them know that they are copying content from your website and they are not authorized to do so. Second, provide them with a complete list of URLs where your content is found on their website. Third, ask them to remove the copied content. Optionally, you might offer to grant them permission, provided they link to your website. This might beneficial if the website copying your content is popular and authoritative. Fourth, you should set realistic deadlines as to when you expect them to implement your suggestions or get a reply.


To check the whois info of the infringing website, go to this URL: http://www.domaintools.com.  

You can get the contact information for the website administrator using these methods. This might not be reliable, though, as some domain owners have enabled privacy for their whois entry. This means that the domain registrant’s name, as well as their contact information, is not shown.

Fourth Step: Escalate issue to web host and file DMCA complaint

If you are unable to get a reply from the infringing website after some reasonable time, or if they are not cooperating with your request, you can finally contact their web host.

Of course, one of the things you need to do is determine the web hosting company of the infringing website. To do this, start by determining the name server of their domain by doing a WHOIS lookup here: http://www.domaintools.com/.  

Next, scroll down until you see the “Name Server” entries. The name server often contains the website of the hosting company.

For example, if the name server entries are:

Name Server:NS1.AGILITYHOSTER.COM
Name Server:NS2.AGILITYHOSTER.COM

The website is hosted by Agilityhoster.com. Or another example:

Name Server:NS1305.HOSTGATOR.COM
Name Server:NS1306.HOSTGATOR.COM

The website is hosted by Hostgator.

Once you  have the name, go to the contact form of their hosting company’s website and send an inquiry. If they have a “report abuse” section or a “report abuse” email address, such as abuse@example.com, then use that to report your complaint.

You can read the hosting company terms and conditions pertaining to copyright infringement or website scraping to learn how they handle these matters.

Fill out the form with your complaint. The content of your complaint is basically the same as the one you sent to the infringing website in the previous step. Make sure it includes the list of infringing URLs. You also need to add the URLs of your original content. Inform them that you not able to get a reply from the website’s owner pertaining to your complaint.

The hosting support will then review your complaint, and reply to you. The most common requirement they’ll ask from you is to file a DMCA complaint. It is basically a form such as this one: http://www.hostgator.com/dmca.php   

After the web host receives the DMCA complaint, they will facilitate the removal of content from the infringing website according to their terms and conditions.

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