Photo Attorney

Jul 20, 2009

Identifying Website Owners for Copyright Infringement Claims

Copyright infringement on the Internet is rampant these days. As explained in my article entitled, "Help! I've Been Infringed," one way to identify the infringer is to search for the website's "who is" information. After you enter the website name, you may be able to find contact information for the owner or administrator of the website.

But some website owners hide their contact information by registering their domains through a "proxy" or agent. When you search the "who is" information, you'll see a proxy company's name instead of the true website contact's name. Fortunately, the Copyright Act provides a way to get around that to determine the true owner of the website.

Specifically, 17 USC 512(h) allows the copyright owner to request a subpoena to a service provider for identification of an alleged infringer. You need three things to get the subpoena:

1. A "take down notice" pursuant to 17 USC 512(c)(3)(A). The details of this notice also are available in my article on "Using the DMCA Takedown Notice to Battle Copyright Infringement."

2. A draft subpoena that authorizes and orders the service provider receiving the notification and the subpoena to expeditiously disclose to the copyright owner information sufficient to identify the alleged infringer of the material described in the notification to the extent such information is available to the service provider.

3. A sworn declaration that the purpose for which the subpoena is sought is to obtain the identity of an alleged infringer and that such information will only be used for the purpose of protecting rights under the Copyright Act.

You then serve the Take Down Notice and the Subpoena on the proxy website representative.

For example, DomainsbyProxy.com allows for private registration of a domain through its service. It also provides the procedures to subpoena its customer information. Amazingly, DomainsbyProxy.com charges you for that information that you're entitled to get by law:
  • Research - $75.00/hour
  • Federal Express - Cost as Billed
  • Copies - $.25/page
[Ed. note: What a racket!]

While the infringer can make it difficult to find it, it cannot hide. It's all part of the process in protecting your work.