Cease and desist letters
How to write a cease and desist letter
If you discover that your work has been infringed, the first step in most cases is to write what is called a "cease and desist" letter to the alleged infringer. You can instruct a local solicitor to do this on your behalf (and it may carry more weight if you do), but that can be expensive, so most people will choose to make first contact themselves and hopefully resolve the matter amicably before commencing on costly legal proceedings.
In this article we discuss the basics of writing a cease and desist letter and provide a couple of free examples you can adapt for your own use. We must stress that this is not formal legal guidance. As each case will have its own specific circumstances, it is still up to you to do your own research, make an assessment of your particular situation, and devise wording and a plan of action that suits your circumstances.
Before you start
If you have come straight to this page, it is probably worth taking a moment to first have a read of our copyright infringement fact sheet that has other advice on dealing with copyright infringement, including actions you can take to ensure you have appropriate evidence stored before commencing proceedings, and some helpful advice about getting content removed from websites.
Cease and desist letters do not have to be complex and you do not need to write in "legalese". In fact, it can be helpful to avoid heavy-handed or overly technical language.
In most cases, our aim with a cease and desist letter is to try to resolve the matter quickly and amicably; most typically by the removal of the infringing materials and an undertaking not to do it again.
Whilst you do, of course, need to make it absolutely clear that the current situation is unacceptable, if the tone of your letter is overly hostile or your demands are unreasonable, this can cause unnecessary animosity and work against you, drawing out a quick resolution into a longer (and more expensive) wrangle.
The key is to keep the tone professional, and avoid emotional, offensive or overtly accusatory language.
Outline for a cease and desist letter.
The content of the letter is actually quite straightforward.
- You should identify the work you believe is being infringed.
- You should confirm that you are the copyright owner (or name the copyright owner if you are writing the letter on behalf of someone else, e.g. if you are their agent).
- You should provide details of the alleged infringement; where is it found, what parts are being copied, etc. and the reason why you believe this is an infringement (e.g. unauthorised copying or distribution).
- State that you believe this is a breach of your legal rights and must stop.
- State what action is required to resolve the dispute, (e.g. withdrawal, return or destruction of all copies of the work).
- Specify a deadline for your conditions to be met (e.g. 14 or 28 days from the date of your letter).
- State that you are seeking legal advice and that the case will be pursued if they do not comply with your request within the time period.
Example cease and desist letters
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am writing in regard to the work [title of work] by [author name]. Hereafter referred to as ‘The Work’.
Please be advised that [we are | I am] the the legal copyright owner of The Work and our rights to the work are assured and protected under the provisions of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 [assumes UK, replace with name of appropriate domestic legislation].
It has come to our attention that you are distributing or reproducing The Work without permission.
[give specific details of infringing actions here].
These actions constitute an infringement of [my|our] copyright in the work and must stop.
To that end, [we | I] require:
- That you cease any publication and/or distribution of The Work.
- That you [destroy|remove|send to us] all infringing copies of The Work.
- That you provide a written undertaking that you will desist from any future infringements in respect of The Work.
We require your formal acknowledgement of this letter and compliance with the terms laid out above by [insert date – e.g. in 14 days].
If you are not able or willing to provide the above, then we will be forced to seek legal remedies, which may include injunctions, claims for legal expenses and damages, or other actions, depending on the advice of our legal council.
Dear Sir or Madam,
It is with deep regret that I am writing this letter to register a serious complaint with regard to your website at [website address].
[Provide details of the infringements and examples here]
Your actions constitute a breach of copyright, and we have evidence which proves conclusively these instances of copying on your website. This is in breach of our legal rights and must stop.
I am therefore formally writing to request the following:
- That your website is changed by no later than [insert date - e.g. in 14 days] so that all content copied or adapted from our site is removed.
- By the same time and date, you cause any other materials containing our materials to be removed from circulation and destroyed.
- By the same time and date, you undertake to us in writing that you will not repeat any such breaches of copyright and or passing off.
If you are not able or willing to provide the above, then we will be forced to commence legal proceedings, which may include a court injunction on your website and claims for legal expenses and damages. Please be advised that we are taking legal advice on this matter, and will pursue this case if the infringing content is not removed.
You will be notified in due course of any additional action we intend to take.