Dealing with legal threats via email.

I'm not a lawyer, all advice in this post is provided based on my experience.

From time to time your going to get people who just don't understand the internet or laws, who are going to make some pretty extraordinary claims and try to stand over you because they think the can and they believe that you should fix their problems for them.

Why?

The reason why people are sending link removal notices based on legal threats is because either they have  either engaged in SEO link spam or a competitor has engaged in link spam to devalue the competition in search engine rankings.

Some website owners use Google Webmaster tools which helps them identify those links which “may” be devaluing their rankings.

You as webmaster need make sure you have privacy policy and terms of service on your pages, you also need reasonable process to protect your site from being abused or misused.

Example for this might be user must solve a captcha question and confirm email address before allowed to post comments or links on website. (This is what I use)

Some of the threats are purely design to get you to reply so they can ask you to remove links to their website (see trademark email)

Identify which type of threat is being made and whether or not it's legitimate claim.

There are three locations/laws you need to know 1. The sender Location 2. Your Location.  3. Your sites/content location.

I've given three examples  that I've had emailed to me in the past 3 months.

Note: I've removed URLS and names to prevent any further emails 😉

DCMA (USA LAW)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act

Copyright

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

Trademark

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark

DCMA THREAT Example

Hi Webmaster,

It seems like you are not willing to cooperate on removing all links pointing to [url censored] from your site. This is our latest attempt to get in contact with you.

If we don’t get a response from you in 48 hours we will:-Report to Google that your are unwilling to remove the links-Ask your hosting provider to suspend you account for using our brand name without permission-File a DCMA complaint for copyright infringement, since you are linking to us without permission Let me know at once if you’ve removed the link(s).

COPYRIGHT THREAT Example

Re: Copyright Claim

I work for the company: [URL CENSORED]

Our site has been penalized by Google because of duplicated content and
specifically from domains within your control, as result of this we have lost
80% of our traffic. I have opened a line of communication with Google's
WebSpam team and am working to clear the penalty, but we need to get this
content taken down ASAP!

HOW THIS AFFECTS YOU?

We have isolated the pages causing our penalty which we need to have removed
and there are some from sites within your control.
Where Exactly Are These Links And Content Which Need Removing?

Specifically the following pages which are most likely operated by the same
person and located here:

[URL CENSORED]

On the following IPs:
XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX

I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described
above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its
agent, or the law and is being hosted by

I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is
accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf
of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

 

Trademark Threat

http://www.trademarkword.co.uk/

The site you are associated with is also infringing my trademark.

[LINK TO UK TRADEMARK SITE]
Please supply the full details of the site owner so we can pass on to our company legal representative.

Thankyou.

What should you do?

Remain calm and respond within 72 hours, with your postal address asking them to send copies of their trademark/copyright  claims so your lawyer can review them.

What this does is separate those who are sending via a service/template email from those who are serious trademark/copyright owners with trademark and copyright documentation.

If you receive the postal documentation this is when you need to engage the services of a  lawyer.

All of them will reply simply asking you to remove links I get 100's of these a week ( I do manage over 12,000+ domains) so I have a process map/email reply template for them to deal with them.

I give them the three options.

  1. Get them Contact the submit of the content as ask them to remove via unsubscribe link in email or edit/remove option (Usually SEO company) – Free
  2. If They are unable to do that use the google disavow tool -Free
  3. Remove then link within 48hrs by paying for one of my team to do it. (As it's manual process and payment will provide us with their contact details, business name and postal address verified by paypal)

What to do next?

Make sure you have reasonable steps in place to deal with these claims, remember you may need to ask someone to remove links from their site one day.

If your constantly getting emails from the same person complain to their ISP and  add them to your spam senders list.

I personally have a blacklist of people, email addresses, and IP address in excess of 200,000+ entries I've been collecting this data since 1998  and it's compared whenever a new person tried to comment or register with any of my websites 🙂