Notification of (Copyright) Infringement (NOI)
This article is not an exhaustive explanation of US copyright law, but rather a common sense guide to use when you discover someone has pirated copyrighted graphics, photographs, music or other original content from your Internet site without your permission.
Photographers, graphic artists, Internet site publishers and other creators of original work sometimes discover their art or music has been copied and/or used by another organization or individual without permission. In many cases, especially those involving teenagers or young children, the copyright infringement is benign due to their ignorance of copyright laws. They can still be held legally accountable and liable though, because ignorance of copyright law can not be used as a defense in court.
In other cases, individuals knowingly and intentionally copy and use someone else's original work because they sincerely believe they won't be caught, or if they are, that the copyright holder won't go through the hassle of pursuing legal or other remedial action against the infringer. They operate under the assumption that only very large corporations like Ty Inc. sue other people or companies for copyright infringement.
Lets assume you spent all day Tuesday of last week taking photographs of Beanie Babies. Then you posted them on a few pages at your Beanie Baby blog site.
Today while browsing the Internet, you discover several of your photographs have been copied from your site and used in a few eBay auction listings, an Amazon.com listing and on several blog sites. You haven't given anyone permission to use your original work. Do you care? You should. Chances are that one or more commercial merchants are using your photographs to generate sales and income for themselves. Will you receive any of the profit from sales? Of course not. Do you habitually work for nothing? I hope not.
Is there anything you can do about the piracy of your work? Yes, there is. But you have to follow some logical rules of ethics as you proceed. First; if you have not posted a notice on the homepage of your Internet site informing visitors that all of the original content at your Internet site is copyrighted; do it now. That is a simple statement you can post on your homepage similar to the one we have near the bottom of our homepage.
Some sites show a copyright notice on every page at the site. That may make them feel more protected but it isn't necessary. When books are copyrighted, publishers do not normally place a copyright notice on every picture in the book (unless the copyrights for the photos in the book are owned by someone other than the publisher). The copyright of the book itself covers all of the original content inside, like photographs, charts, graphs, etc. It is much the same with Internet sites.
Before you begin a notification process that someone has infringed your original work, take and save a screen-shot or print each Internet page you discover with your work on it.
This is important - send a copyright infringement notice to ANYBODY you catch using your work without permission. You shouldn't pick and choose. You probably wouldn't appreciate losing a copyright infringement case in court because an infringer alleges you singled him or her out for legal action based on the fact that seven or eight other sites or businesses also copied your work, but you never took any action against them. Be consistent. Whether a criminal act is intentional or unintentional, it is still a criminal act. Teen or adult; it is still a criminal act.
Send an email to each commercial infringer informing them:
- You discovered your copyrighted work (from the URL of the page or pages at your site) being used at their site.
- Provide the URL of the page at the site where your pirated work is posted.
- Inform them this is your original copyrighted work and they are using it without your permission.
- Tell them you want the work removed from their site. Give them a specific deadline to remove your work. Be reasonable. We
normally give infringers three business days to honor our request to remove photographs or other original content.
- Tell them what will happen if they don't comply with your request. That can be a more general statement, but it will tend
to show that you take this matter seriously.
- Place your full name and URL on the emails you send. We recommend against providing telephone numbers. You need written copies of anything that transpires and it isn't likely you would have a written copy of a telephone conversation.
This is an example of the typical notification we send:
To: name of infringer
This is an official notice that the graphic/photograph you are using at ___________ has been copied illegally from the tycollector.com Internet site.
Your use of this or any other copyrighted content from the tycollector.com Internet site constitutes a federal offense. All of the photographs and graphics at tycollector.com are copyright Leon and Sondra Schlossberg or other individuals as indicated at the site. Their use is not permitted for commercial purposes or under any other circumstance without prior written consent of the copyright owners.
Please remove this graphic from your site immediately. If you have not done so within three business days, we will have no other option than to notify _______________ of your illegal use of copyrighted items and also to pursue other legal action as warranted.
Leon and Sondra Schlossberg
Our practice is to request removal of our content from ANY commercial site that is using it. When it comes to non-commercial sites like personal blogs or special interest sites, we are sometimes a bit more flexible. If we find our work at another special interest site related to Ty products, we request the owner either take the photographs down within three business days or add a credit to each photograph for the name of the person at tycollector.com who actually took the photograph.
One word of caution. If you produce quality original work, it will not do your reputation any good if your work is displayed at a poorly designed or inappropriate blog or special interest site. If you are apt to give permission for someone to use your work, make sure their site presents your work in its best light. Otherwise, don't give them permission to use it. Just tell them to take your work down.
The email notification procedure is simple and it helps to promote awareness of copyright issues while at the same time ensuring your work is not pirated and used for commercial purposes without compensation to you.
On a positive note, we have sent 25 - 30 notifications like the one above over the past several years and never had to proceed further. To their credit, recipients removed our work or credited us as requested. Make sure you keep a copy of any email you send to someone giving them permission to use your work. Later on you might end up notifying that same individual again for something found at a different site owned by that same person. You don't want to become involved in the "you gave me permission already," - "no I didn't" argument. Always keep written records of any communications regarding your work.
You may be asking now; "What can I do if they ignore me; take them to court? You could, but court actions are expensive and this being the Internet, there are other steps you can take before considering the court option.
The Internet being what it is, everyone's Internet site is hosted somewhere, usually with a commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP). When you present notification and sufficient evidence to an ISP that one of their clients is breaking the law, that ISP is legally bound to take action and that action is frequently a shutdown of the offending Internet site. If someone has pirated your work to use in a listing at amazon.com or eBay, you should notify amazon.com or eBay accordingly. If a blogger has pirated your work, you should notify the blogging community hosting manager.
Webs.com provided the following guidance (several years ago) on the information required in a Notification of Infringement (NOI) sent to an ISP:
The notification must contain substantially the following:
- A description of the copyrighted work or other intellectual property that you claim has been infringed.
- A description of the location where the material that you claim is infringing is located.
- A statement by you that you have a good faith belief that the reported use is not authorized by the copyright or
intellectual property owner, its agent, or the law.
- Your address, telephone number, and, if available, e-mail address.
- A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information is accurate and that you are the copyright or
intellectual property owner or authorized to act on the copyright or intellectual property owner's behalf; and
- An electronic or physical signature by the person making the submission (i.e., you or such other person authorized to act on behalf of the copyright
holder). If the submission is made electronically, to satisfy the signature requirement please designate the electronic signature by
typing a forward slash before and after the name of the authorized person making the submission (e.g., /Jane Doe/) and follow
this electronic signature with the typed name of the person. For example:
This format is intended to represent a signature and typed name as is customarily found within the signature block of business correspondence transmitted in hard copy.
After you submit a notification like this to an ISP, you should give the ISP sufficient time to investigate your allegation and take any action they deem appropriate. That can sometimes take a few weeks. Don't become a pest, but follow up with the ISP about once per week to see how the process is progressing.
When, after several weeks there has been no action taken on your NOI to an ISP, you must decide if you want to front the expense of taking the infringer to court. In most cases, that isn't worth the expense of the court costs, but if it appears the infringer has made a significant material gain from the use of your work, you should consult a local copyright attorney to pursue additional options. Realistically, there are times you cannot do anything about the piracy. But you can indeed make things somewhat uncomfortable for the infringer in other ways.
We have never had to proceed to "alternative" actions, but imagine how a seller on Amazon.com would feel if after stealing your work they received a new review of their product every week that states, "This vendor is engaged in active copyright infringement which is against federal law. Would you feel comfortable buying a product from this person?"
Use your imagination. You should never break the law or engage in harassment style activities, but when someone breaks the law, and you can prove it . . . maybe you have a civic duty to notify the consuming public.
If you think piracy of graphics and other content is just a "little thing," visit a few of the commercial businesses (i.e., corbis.com) that sell copyrighted photographs. Original content is big money, and you shouldn't let someone take advantage of you or your good nature by using your hard work to make "their" money.
Copyright laws differ from country to country. That makes things interesting. But most countries have existing international treaties wherein they agree to honor each others' copyright laws.
The United States copyright law is contained in chapters 1 through 8 and 10 through 12 of Title 17 of the United States Code. Compliments of the US Copyright Office, here is a great reference to read for a detailed explanation of US copyright law. This publication contains the text of Title 17 of the United States Code (including the Copyright Act of 1976), as well as all amendments enacted by Congress through March 27, 2020. The Copyright Act of 1976, which provides the basic framework for the current copyright law, was enacted on October 19, 1976, as Pub. L. No. 94-553, 90 Stat. 2541.
For any additional changes or updates to US Copyright law, please visit the United States Copyright Office Internet site.