DMCA Takedown Notices: Tips for Success with Braindumps
Braindump Sites and DMCA Takedown Notices
It will come as no surprise when I say that Braindump sites are among the biggest problems facing high-stakes testing programs today. There are hundreds (if not thousands, internationally) of braindump sites disclosing actual exam content, with new sites being created daily. There is also a vast array of affiliated blogs, filesharing sites, social media posts, etc. that direct people back to their braindump content. And while it used to be sufficient to send a DMCA takedown notice to remove your test content from a braindump site, limited time and resources—in addition to the increasing number of braindump sites—makes this task more difficult than ever. However, with the right approach, sending a DMCA takedown notice is still an important and effective tool in the battle for test security.
It’s frustrating (and expensive!) for testing organizations to spend the time, creativity, and resources developing test items, only to have those items disclosed on the internet a short time after the test’s publication. The result is that undeserving test takers pass the exam by gaining pre-existing knowledge from the test content provided by these sites. Worse, this type of activity erodes the validity of your exam and hurts your program’s reputation. And worst of all, your investment in developing high-quality assessments is nullified. But you already know that. If you haven’t experienced the pain of finding your content exposed online yourself, you likely know a colleague that has.
While takedown notifications leveraging the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have been effective in the past, the sheer volume of potential sites today makes it difficult to address all of them with your limited time and resources. Additional challenges come from several sources. The fact today is that many braindump sites never respond to your takedown request, even after several attempts. Their contact information may also be protected from privacy protection services, making it challenging to discover who to address your takedown request to. In addition, if you do contact them, a braindump owner may make claims of “fair use,” knowing that the likelihood of you starting legal proceedings against them to prove otherwise is very small. Or they remove the material from one of their URLs, only to post it minutes later on several new sites.
So, what to do?
DMCA Tips for Success
There are still cases when sending takedown notifications makes unequivocal sense. If the site is offering or selling your complete exam form or a substantial number of exact items, it is worth trying to get your content removed, and you are likely to have some success.
Here are some more tips for finding success with DMCA takedown notices:
- Obtain registered copyrights to your items and tests: You may say, “Don’t I have to have my items registered by copyright before I can send the DMCA notification?” Actually, not necessarily! Some level of implied copyright may likely cover your content because you authored the test questions. That said, we recommend that all high-stakes test programs register the copyright of their items and tests.
- In consultation with legal counsel, draft appropriate DMCA language to be sent to offending websites.
- Immediately after finding a braindump site with stolen test content, send a DMCA notification to the contact email on its webpage, the registered owner of the website, AND the host of the website.
- If no response is received within 72 hours, send the DMCA notification again, and again… and perhaps one more time. The fourth time may be the charm. (Persistence pays off.)
By using this strategy of repeated DMCA notification delivery, you can still succeed in getting your content removed, at least some of the time. It is certainly worth it to put in the effort.
Next Steps: Identifying Trends, Republishing Content, & Investigating with Data Forensics
Beyond that, remember that—even if you can’t get your content removed—discovering which braindump sites (and how many) are hosting your content provides valuable information about your tests. This information can help you identify trends and provide critical insight into the useful lifespan of your items and forms. It will help you make decisions about whether you need to republish items, forms, or entire exams. Furthermore, it will allow you to conduct data forensics investigations to uncover which test takers utilized the braindump content, which in turn will enable you to pursue legal action if desired.
Also, to end on a positive note. Remember that even though there are a host of braindump URLs out there, most of them have very little activity or views. And while there are exceptions, very few of the sites index highly when your test takers perform a Google search. This means they won’t show up in the first few pages of results that most online searchers check before moving onto something else.
Valuable Insight Now & in the Future
In conclusion, you need not be overwhelmed by the sheer number of braindump sites or discouraged that DMCA notices are becoming less effective. Rather, view this as an opportunity to gain valuable insight into the health of your program and use the information you gather from braindump sites to guide your program forward. DMCA takedown notices aren’t the end-all solution they once were, but they are still a valuable tool in the fight against braindump sites, and well worth the effort to remove your test content from the internet.