Have you or your business ever been the victim of copyright infringement or slander though the Internet?
Hundreds of thousands of people have been slandered or had their photos/content/songs/programs distributed online without their consent. Many webmasters are completely unethical and will use any means at their disposal to drive traffic to their sites, including stealing content or other copyright material and offering it on their own site. Some websites also steal people’s names/photos/profiles to add to their sites. For instance, recently, a relatively well-known dating site was harvesting names/profiles to place on their site to make it seem like there was a large database of users from which to choose. This particular site also displayed random pornographic images on the site. Understandably, the people who found their names linked to this site were outraged.
You can find out where your name has been used by typing your full name into the search bar, with quotation marks around your name. For instance, I type “Celesta Thiessen” in order to Google where my name is used online. You may want to do this to see what comes up. If you have a common name, there will be many, many pages of results, and there is likely nothing to worry about. But if you have a less common name, such as mine, or if you have a business name, it would probably be a good idea to find out what’s been published in cyberspace about you/your business. In the course of time, it is almost certain that someone will ‘Google’ you/your business. Wouldn’t you like to know what’s written about you before they do?
When something of yours shows up on someone else’s site, it’s often difficult to know what can be done to remedy the problem. Some people think that it is impossible to control the Internet and, therefore, having your photo, full name or other copyrighted material appear here and there under whatever context is inevitable and unfixable. This is not the case! Many steps can be taken to have the offensive content removed or rendered inaccessible. Here are some of the basic steps to take if your copyrighted materials are displayed online or someone maligns by what is posted on their site.
Contact the Site
The first thing to do is to contact the website directly via a contact form on that website or by email. Always be formal and professional in your communication. I find adding the following phrases to the end of the email can have good results: “If ________ is not removed from your site, I will be contacting my lawyer to discuss legal action. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.”
However, don’t bother waiting for a reply. In most cases, they won’t care and will not respond, although, occasionally, it is an honest mistake (or they pretend it is) and they will willingly remove the copyright material or your photo/ personal info.
Contact the host
The next step is to determine the webspace hosting provider. You can do this by typing “who hosts this site” into the Google search bar. A list of sites appears which can be used to determine the name of the hosting provider. Then go to the hosting company website.
Email the hosting company to register your complaint. Explain the problem, whether it is copyright infringement or misuse of your personal data or photos. Make sure to provide the url where the copyrighted material or your name/photo are displayed. Again, I find it useful to mention the fact that I will be contacting my lawyer if the content is not removed. Many hosting companies will shut down websites that illegally display copyrighted content or libelous photos/info. If the hosting company does not respond within 24 hours of email contact, phone and/or fax the hosting company. Faxes are considered official documentation and are often taken more seriously than emails or phone calls.
One of the most effective and easiest ways to make trouble for those who violate your copyright or use your name or photo in slanderous ways is to get them removed from the Google search results. This action will prevent most people from ever finding that site, even if the content is not removed. When someone searches through Google (and more than 80% of people do), the page will never be displayed in a list of results.
It is easy to report to Google websites that violate your copyright or slander you through use of your name or photo.
Don’t despair if you find that people have stolen your copyrighted materials or are misusing your name or photographs. Instead, take action. With persistence, you can control how your copyrighted materials, your name, and your photos are used online.