Yesterday I got a DMCA takedown notice.  I spent the better part of 15 years in the media industry and the rights of copyright holders has always been important to me so I’m always conscientious about where I source my content – in this case a photo. I try to always use content that is licensed for commercial work, without attribution.

So to say that seeing the email come in was a bit of a surprise is very fair.

I checked out the photo – I honestly had zero remembrance of the photo.

Then I went back and reread the email.  In closer inspection of the email, things just felt off.  There was no mention of who actually owned the rights to the image.  There was a request add attribution but also a statement that removal didn’t qualify as a remedy.  This is the ENTIRE purpose of a takedown request.

So I dug a little further.  Sure enough the email had the name of a very official sounding firm, a swanky Boston address, and came through in a branded email domain.  Not some random anonymous public email platform.

Now I’m the kind of guy that looks at emails like this and gets curious.  So I dug even further. Turns out the domain was a whole 1 day old.  The day the email campaign was sent out was the day the email went live.  That doesn’t sound like the big, well established law firm that their website represented.

Then I did a search on the address – nothing at that address by that name.  Hmmmmm.

A search for the firm name turns up the exact same website under a different domain name – a domain that was 6 days old.

Yeah, with a little more context, this email  has SCAM written all over it.

I talked with one of my attorney friends and he gave me some great advice when it comes to the difference between authentic and scam legal communication.  Any official legal requests from an attorney are going to include a reference to the state they are licensed in and their official ID number.  This is required, precisely so that the recipient can look them up and confirm they are real.

Here are some of the elements that should be present in an official DMCA Takedown Notice

  1. Contact Information for the sender – Name, email, address or phone
  2. Clear identification of the work infringed
  3. Clear identification of the infringement and its location on the site (exact URL vs. general site home page -unless that is the location of the infringement)
  4. Statement that they are the owner of the copyright or agent of the owner
  5. A physical or electronic signature of the copyright holder or their agent
  6. A good faith statement that the party believes that the material in question was used that is not authorized

It should be noted that takedown notices don’t have to come from attorneys.  So the fact that the notice I received didn’t have the state bar reference and ID isn’t an immediate disqualifier.  But in my case, the website of the  sender did claim to be a “team of skilled attorneys” it would have.

Once upon a time it took a lot of time to build up a full sized legal firm website.  But with AI the time required to make something that looks convincing is actually quite short. It still takes some time to do it right, with real, authentic content. So be mindful of your surroundings on the internet when you check out the identities of potential scammers.  The scams are getting more cunning when back-stopping their identities.

As with any potential scam email, be mindful – a little common sense can save you some headaches. Be careful what you click on.  Links can be set to redirect or can go directly to malware and URLs  can be obfuscated in a number of ways.  Take a few simple steps to confirm the authenticity before you take any actions.  Consult a professional when you have serious concerns.

MS Digital Solutions, LLC is a digital marketing agency, not a law firm.  None of the content above should be taken as legal advice.  But we are always here to help point our friends and clients towards the tools that are available to make it a little easier to apply critical thinking to the stuff and junk that shows up in our inboxes.