What to do if your content is posted online illegally

What can you do?

Start by determining whether your content has actually been distributed illegally. If so, you can contact the site in question and try to reach an agreement or have the content removed.

As a last resort, you could take legal action to protect your copyright. Refer to our decision tree summarizing the steps in this process, which is explained in more detail below.  

Step 1 — Check your copyright 

The person who put your content online without your consent is probably unaware they’re infringing your copyright. Content sharing doesn’t always mean Internet piracy is involved. The people using the content may be misinformed rather than malicious.

Let’s be clear: that doesn’t relieve them of their responsibilities.

But, keeping that in mind, you can assume they’re acting in good faith while you move on to the next steps.

Is the site authorized to share your content?

That’s the first question you should ask.Second question: Who could have given permission to the site? Does anyone other than yourself hold copyright on the content? Those parties could have given permission without informing you.

Did they have the authority to do it? That depends on any prior agreements or contracts. Before turning to a lawyer or contacting the site’s owners, talk to the people you worked with. Who knows? Maybe royalties have been paid and are waiting for you!  

Is the site sharing the content without permission ?

So, you’ve checked with your co-contributors and you confirmed they haven’t been in touch with the site’s owners. You can therefore conclude that your content has been posted online illegally.

Before launching legal proceedings, take a moment to consider that your content may have been shared by people who don’t realize they’re breaking the law: 

  • Sites of individuals, organizations or businesses that are unaware of the rules around copyright 

  • Sites of businesses or organizations whose content is generated by employees who haven’t been informed about copyright issues 

 There are other types of platforms that post content without permission. For sites where content is user-generated, it can be challenging for administrators to verify that all shared content is legally compliant:  

  • Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  

  • Video and music streaming platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and Spotify 

  • Internet forums 

  • Blog comment sections 

  • Content aggregators

  • Content-sharing sites for teaching personnel

  • Sites that users mistakenly assume are password-protected intranets 

Step 2 — Contact the website 

On some sites, there are ways to request that illegally reproduced content be removed. The method for submitting a request can be found in the site’s terms of use. Sites often include those terms under headings such as copyright, legal notice, acceptable use policy, privacy policy, terms and conditions, or DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

Certain sites ask you for a detailed email while others make a form available for you to fill out. In either case, here are the details you’ll need to provide:

  • Confirmation that you’re the copyright owner 

  • Your complete contact information (email address, phone number, mailing address)  

  • Bibliographic references to identify the illegally reproduced content  

  • Exact location of the content (URL of the page where the content appears)  

  • Notification from the copyright owners or their agents that the content was reproduced without permission and that it contravenes Canada’s Copyright Act 

What if the site doesn’t offer a copyright takedown option?

That’s not unusual. In that case, a polite email providing the above details may be sufficient to have your unauthorized content taken down.

If the site administrators are interested in keeping your content online, you could propose a user licence and negotiate your copyright royalties.

Be sure you’re asking the right site to take down your content

Many sites contain links to third-party sites where you can download illegally reproduced content. That applies to certain forums where users share links to illegal download sites.

When you request that your content be taken down, make sure you’re contacting the illegal download site rather than the forum or site offering a link to that download site. You’ll save yourself some steps.Your content will be removed and, at the same time, the link will no longer be functional.

Step 3 — Consult a lawyer 

If the steps you take are unsuccessful, as a last resort contact a lawyer.