Everything You Need to Know about Legal Fake Website Takedowns
If you have ever been the victim of a copycat website, you know how frustrating it can be. It’s bad enough when someone steals your hard work or infringes on your copyrighted material, but when it’s done anonymously—via a fake website—it can feel like an even bigger violation.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
Fortunately, there are legal steps you can take to get these sites removed from the web and protect yourself from further theft or infringement. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about launching a successful legal takedown against a fake website.
We’ll explain what constitutes copyright infringement, discuss the different types of fake websites, provide tips for initiating a takedown process, and more — so let’s get started!
Steps for Legally Taking Down a Fake Website
1. Gather and Evaluate Facts as Soon as Possible
The first step to take when taking down a fake website is to quickly gather and evaluate the facts. Before trying to take any legal action, you need to identify who exactly is behind this illegitimate domain name.
Unfortunately, scammers tend to hide their true identities for privacy reasons, making it difficult to know who they are without proper research.
Still, this research can be done by looking up the registrar of the domain name and host of the fake website servers using WHOIS lookup tools managed by ICANN.
These tools are “not at all intuitive” but with some patient effort and time, one can eventually get to the bottom of things and find out more about the people creating such malicious websites. Once you have identified the people behind the website, then you can begin to take legal action with more confidence.
2. Make a Record of the Fraud
Making a record of fraud is an important step to legally taking down a fake website. The idea behind it is that, without proof, the website cannot be prosecuted in court or taken down by law enforcement.
To create this record, start by filing a complaint with the FBI and your local police department. It’s also important to take screenshots of the content on the fake website and make sure they are stored securely as evidence.
Additionally, if you can find any associated IP addresses or other identifying information about the fraudsters, adding those to your documentation will be helpful as well. Finally, consider gathering testimonials from customers who may have been affected by the scammer’s activities and use those as additional evidence in your complaint.
3. Prepare and Send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Notice
The next step to take down a website legally is to send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice and takedown request to the host of the website.
This legal step is especially helpful if you are dealing with a host located in the U.S., as it allows for DMCA protection and requirements. However, scammers can be particularly crafty, so they may use hosts located outside of the United States in order to avoid being subject to this particular statute.
For those sending a DMCA notice, it’s important to understand exactly what information needs to be included in your request.
Generally speaking, all notices should include contact information for both yourself and the infringing party; clear identification of copyrighted material that was infringed upon; and a declaration that you have a good faith belief that the accused party has not authorized its use in any manner.
4. Send a Request to Google
Contact Google and give a complete DMCA complaint as soon as possible informing them of the infringement of your copyright and asking them to remove the scammer from their search results.
It might take some time for Google to process your request, as they receive over a million DMCA takedown requests every day. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you have provided all the necessary information for a complete DMCA complaint, including proof of copyright ownership.
This will help speed up the process and give scammers less time to potentially steal from your business or customers.
5. File a Complaint Under the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP)
Filing a complaint under the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) with ICANN is also one of the most effective ways.
Having a trademark registered can help you prepare and file the complaint successfully, as the complainant must prove that there’s enough confusion between their trademark and the fake domain name, as well as that the domain name is being used in bad faith.
A successful claimant will have their fake domain name transferred to them so they can shut it down and prevent further fraudulent use.
For example, let’s say a company has an established online presence and discovers someone has created a website with the exact same branding, but with a slightly different spelling in the domain name.
To take legal action against this fake website, they can file a complaint under the UDRP and show that their trademark is being infringed upon and used in bad faith by the fraudster. If successful, then the fake website will be shut down and any associated accounts related to it could also be frozen or blocked from use.
It’s important to note, however, that filing a complaint under UDRP won’t necessarily stop the scammer from popping up with another URL and launching another fraudulent website. It also won’t help them recover damages or reimburse legal expenses. For these kinds of remedies, they need to file a complaint in federal court and obtain a restraining order.
6. Take Steps to Avoid or Deter Future Scams
Taking steps to avoid or deter future scams is an important part of legally taking down a fake website. Trademark filings and domain name registrations should be monitored closely in order to quickly identify any fraudulent activity.
Additionally, social media activity should also be watched for potential infringement or misuse of trademarks and copyright material.
Google Alerts can also be used to keep track of references to your company and brands, as well as competitive or fraudulent activity. By creating these watches and monitoring various accounts, you can stay ahead of those who are attempting to unlawfully use your intellectual property.
Fake websites are a growing problem in today’s digital age. It is important for businesses to be aware of the various methods available for taking down a fake website, to protect their brand from any potential harm that can be caused by such malicious activity.
Companies should also consider consulting with an experienced attorney to make sure that the takedown procedure is done correctly and legally.
Taking the time to understand the legal implications associated with this process can ultimately save you time, and money, and ensure your business’s online reputation remains intact.
With proper care, diligence, and attention paid to these matters, businesses can effectively tackle any threats posed by phony websites today.