How to Write a Cease and Desist Letter

Stopping Copyright Infringement and Defamation of Character

A Cease and Desist Letter (also known as a cease and desist notice, demand letter, or stop harassment letter) is used to notify an individual or organization that they are engaging in infringing or harassing activities and to ask them to stop.
A harassing or infringing activity can encompass many different things such as stalking, libel, slander, or copyright infringement, and includes actions that negatively affect some facet of a person’s life or ability to do business.
A Cease and Desist Letter serves as a warning to the offending party that they have a certain amount of time to stop a particular activity before legal action is taken against them.

When Should I Send a Cease and Desist Letter?

If a harassing or infringing activity caused by an individual or organization is negatively affecting your life or business, you should consider sending a Cease and Desist Letter.
Some common situations for when an individual or organization would use a Cease and Desist Letter to ask someone to stop an infringing or harassing behavior include:
  • Harassment from debt collectors
  • Copyright infringement, like plagiarizing content or software
  • Trademark infringement, such as stealing or using a company’s logo or brand information
  • Character assassination, such as libel, slander, or defamation

What is Defamation of Character?

Defamation refers to an area of law that allows a person or business to seek compensation for injury, loss, or suffering that occurred due to untrue statements that were made about them. Libel and slander fall under the defamation umbrella, specifically referring to defamation of character.
Libel is when a false statement is written about a person or business with the purpose of causing that person or business loss, injury, suffering, or repuation damage.
For instance, a restaurant owner publishes an article that includes a false statement claiming that his or her competitor’s restaurant is rat-infested. If the article was untrue, then it could be considered libel.
Slander is when a false statement is verbally made about a person or business.
For example, let’s say that a doctor told his or her patients that a colleague’s credentials were fake. This statement could cause the other doctor to lose patients, so it could be considered slander if it were untrue.
Although anyone can use a Cease and Desist Letter for a variety of situations, these letters are typically used by professionals, businesses, or individuals who need to safeguard their work and reputation in order to conduct business or make a living.
Graphic designers, photographers, and writers are just a few examples of professionals who may face situations where they could use a Cease and Desist Letter.
In general, a Cease and Desist Letter should include:
  • The sender and receiver’s name and contact information
  • The date the letter was written
  • A clear, concise description of the infringing or harassing behavior or action
  • The amount of time the offending party has to remedy their actions (removing/deleting content, stop the harassing behavior, etc.) before the sender initiates legal action
The goal of your letter is to get the offending party to stop the activity against you, so it’s recommended to stick to the relevant details only and to leave out any information that is not absolutely necessary, such as foul language or petty commentary.
Since a Cease and Desist Letter is notice that you will pursue legal action against the offending party should they choose to not comply with your request, you ordinarily do not need an attorney to send the letter.
If the situation escalates to the point where you do need to take legal action, then an attorney would have to help you serve a cease and desist order.
A cease and desist order is a legal action issued by a court or government agency on the offending party, prohibiting the offending activity.
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How Should a Cease and Desist Letter be Delivered?

There is no formal requirement for the method used to deliver a Cease and Desist Letter. The best way to send your letter depends on the situation. Whichever method you choose, it is important to keep a record so that you can prove the letter was likely to have been received.
For instance, if you are sending the letter to stop harassing phone calls from a debt collector, it is recommended to send a cease and desist notice to the debt collection company via certified letter mail. Using certified letter mail means that the post office will send you confirmation that the mail was either delivered or that a delivery attempt was made.
As another example, let’s say that you are the owner of a company and you notice that a website is using your copyrighted logo. In this case, it would most likely be more efficient to contact the company via email to request that the logo is removed. You could use software to confirm that the email was delivered and/or read (this feature is included in most major email applications).
A Cease and Desist Letter is a notice or warning that you will take legal action against the offending party should they choose to continue the infringing or harassing behavior against you.
The purpose of the letter is to let the other party know that you are serious about continuing with legal action if they don’t stop bothering you or using your material or content without your permission.
Moreover, the fact that you attempted to contact the offending party to give them a chance to correct themselves before perusing legal action shows that their continuing activity is willful and should aid in your case to bring a cease and desist order against them if required.
Although there is no hard and fast rule for how long you need to give someone to respond to a Cease and Desist Letter, you should keep in mind that the timeframe you give the offending party to respond should be reasonable.
What constitutes a reasonable timeframe depends on:
  • The method you used to deliver the letter. If you sent the demand letter using the standard postal service, it might take longer to arrive at its destination. If you used a quicker delivery method, such as email, you might consider giving the recipient a shorter window to respond.
  • The action or behavior you want to stop. Depending on the action or behavior that needs to stop, it may take the recipient time to remedy the situation. For instance, if they are running an ad online that contains your company logo, they may need time to contact the advertising company to have the ad removed from their database.
  • The method the recipient uses to respond. If you mailed your Cease and Desist Letter to a collection agency, they will most likely respond by mailing you a letter in return. Since it took time for them to receive your letter, it’s only fair to give them the same amount of time to send their response before you proceed further.

Writing a Cease and Desist Letter

It’s not easy dealing with an individual or organization that is harassing you or exploiting your work. Thankfully, cease and desist letters exist to help you deal with the situation in a formal way and give the offending party a chance to correct their behavior or actions before you seek legal recourse.
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Cease and Desist Letters can be used by anyone, so share these tips with your network!