Ripped Content - French Maid TVRipped video content online is as old as the technology of streaming video itself. Some would argue it’s what really helped push online video into mainstream. But now that business models are emerging where creators—and the sites that host their content —are making money, it’s more important than ever for content owners to monitor the web for stolen versions and take direct action to get them removed.

Tim Street, creator of the popular “how-to” web series French Maid TV, just recently found that some of the videos (see above) from his series—like the “How to Register a Domain Name” episode—had been ripped, with new title cards added, and then uploaded to ad-supported MTV/Viacom-owned Spike.com without his permission. The offender, a site called TrickLife.com, which claims to be the “#1 How-To Video Site,” added animated title cards and stripped away any references to French Maid TV‘s sponsor of the video, GoDaddy.

Through a WHOIS lookup, we found that the TrickLife.com domain is registered to a company in the British Virgin Islands called Greencove Services Ltd., though the hosting of the site is done by Chicago-based ISP Reflected Networks, outlines its non-tolerance for copyright infringement on its servers in its privacy policy. TrickLife also has a Facebook group, which is run by Kyle Waring, a self-described “entertainment publisher for a network of 170 websites,” who’s firm, New York-based Internet Assets Inc. owns the site along several others like online games site Bored.com.

We talked to Waring on the phone, who said that it’s challenging managing 170 sites with a limited staff, many of which have user-submitted content. “We’re cracking down on accepting user submissions,” Waring said, noting that they recently laid off a moderator for TrickLife.com that was responsible for monitoring content submissions for copyright compliance. “We do have a legal department that will handle all DMCA requests,” he added. In terms of revenue, Waring noted that the site “doesn’t really generate a lot of money” and says they are planning on closing down TrickLife in the near future.

For Street, he’s seen his video content reposted before, and while he has some tolerance for embedding his videos on other sites, said that this ripping crossed the line. “I understand that we are all trying to figure out how to make money with online videos but to scrape someone’s content, stick it in your own player and then throw advertising on it is pretty bad,” he said. “I’ve had this happen a few times before and I’ve asked that the perps take down my videos and they have.”

“Most video sharing sites have embeds that you can grab and stick on your site,” added Street. “That’s the way you should be sharing video that has a copyright. Maybe you could even throw in a link as well. Google alerts are a great, free way to see who’s posting your content. Then you can go see if they are using video embeds that you have approved or if they have stolen your content and not giving you any link love.”

See the original video below, which runs pre-roll ads through Blip.tv:

To get a lawyer’s opinion on how to proceed, we talked to new media creator and attorney Tyler Malin who walked us through the steps that creators should take when they spot their works being stolen like this. The rest of this article is written by Malin and includes links to some good examples of sample documents needed. [Disclaimer: This article contains legal information but NO legal advice and users of this web site should consult with their own lawyer for legal advice.]

Initially I would say, this is a prime example of why content creators need to have their copyrights registered.  Registration is the best way to protect your content, it is inexpensive and has significant benefits for creators in situations like this.  If you don’t like traditional copyright registration, use creative commons, just make sure you think about protecting yourself before distributing your content.  In a situation where you find infringement there are two steps that content creators can do by themselves to minimize potential loss.

Step one is to get all possible information related to the infringing website.  The more information you can piece together on your own the better.  Start with www.whois.sc and grab information related to the site, the registrant name, address, phone number, email address, IP address – everything you can find.  Try to find the hosting information for the website based on the IP address, if the website has advertising on it, right click and find the ad source and take down client IDs for the advertisers, if the infringing website is processing payments note the payment processor.

Now armed with this information you are ready to send out takedown notification letters.  Your takedown notifcation needs to conform to Section 512(c)(3) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which states:

Elements of notification.

(A) To be effective under this subsection, a notification of claimed infringement must be a written communication provided to the designated agent of a service provider that includes substantially the following:

  • (i) A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
  • (ii) Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.
  • (iii) Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.
  • (iv) Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.
  • (v) A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
  • (vi) A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

French Maid TV on Spike

You can search google to find a DMCA takedown notification that you find suitable, for one example check out: http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2009/07/06/sample-dmca-take-down-letter/id=4501/

I would practically start by by reaching out to the infringing website owner first, very often these issues can be resolved with a single email.  If that doesn’t work you can move on to the website hosting company, advertisers, payment processors and on down the line.  If you still don’t find relief your final resort is a lawsuit – hopefully it never comes to that. If your content is misappropriated on a major video portal like YouTube, MySpace, Vimeo or Blip you can reach out directly through the internal DMCA system of that portal to have the content removed quickly.

Links to Major Portal DMCA pages:

YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/t/dmca_policy
MySpace - http://faq.myspace.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/748 – email takedown notice to [email protected]
Vimeo - http://www.vimeo.com/dmca – email takedown notice to [email protected]
Blip - http://blip.tv/dmca/[email protected]
Spike.com – http://www.spike.com/ui/jsp/about/copyright_policy.jsp

For further reading, check out Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, a  joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics.

Tyler Malin is an attorney and a busy guy these days, he is a partner at the New York law-firm Madon Malin, P.C., CEO of interactive production company and creative agency Social Animal, Inc., executive director of online radio station erockster.com and is currently working on a new project created to help online content producers with these thorny legal issues, the soon to launch Mulafo.com.