A cease and desist letter is a document sent by one party, often a business, to warn another party that they believe the other party is committing an unlawful act, such as copyright infringement, and that they will take legal action if the other party continues the alleged unlawful activity. The letter may warn that, if the recipient does not discontinue specified conduct, or take certain actions, by deadlines set in the letter, the letter's recipient may be sued.[1][2] The phrase "cease and desist" is a legal doublet, made up of two near-synonyms. A cease and desist letter issued by a government entity, called a cease and desist order, is "a warning of impending judicial enforcement".[3]

Usage for intellectual property

Although cease and desist letters are not exclusively used in the area of intellectual property, particularly in regards to copyright infringement, such letters "are frequently utilized in disputes concerning intellectual property and represent an important feature of the intellectual property law landscape".[2] The holder of an intellectual property right such as a copyrighted work, a trademark, or a patent, may send the cease and desist letter to inform a third party "of the right holder's rights, identity, and intentions to enforce the rights". The letter may merely contain a licensing offer or may be an explicit threat of a lawsuit. A cease and desist letter often triggers licensing negotiations, and is a frequent first step towards litigation.[2]

Effects on recipients

Receiving numerous cease and desist letters may be very costly for the recipient. Each claim in the letters must be evaluated, and it should be decided whether to respond to the letters, "whether or not to obtain an attorney's opinion letter, prepare for a lawsuit, and perhaps initiate [in case of letters regarding a potential patent infringement] a search for alternatives and the development of design-around technologies".[2]

Cease and desist letters are sometimes used to intimidate recipients and can be "an effective tool used by corporations to chill the critical speech of gripe sites operators".[4] A company owning a trademark may send such letter to a gripe site operator alleging a trademark infringement, although the actual use of the trademark by the gripe site operator may fall under a fair use exception (in compliance with, in the U.S., the protection of free speech under the First Amendment).[4]

Notable cease and desist letters


Author Patrick Wensink used Jack Daniel's famous branding without licensing as a cover for his 2012 book Broken Piano for President. Jack Daniel's requested only future printings of the book to have the cover changed and offered compensation.

In 2017, a cease and desist letter sent by Netflix for an unauthorized Stranger Things-related bar event was noted by news outlets such as Fortune and Quartz for its humorous wording.[5]


The sign-off message broadcast by DWWX-TV (ABS-CBN Manila) before stopping all broadcasts at 7:52 pm (PST) in compliance with the NTC order because of franchise expiry on May 5, 2020

The Philippine National Telecommunications Commission administered a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN to stop broadcasting on May 5, 2020 after its franchise expired the day before (May 4, 2020). At 7:52 pm (PHT), ABS-CBN stopped its broadcast in compliance with the NTC's letter, signing off all of its free TV and radio stations across the country (ABS-CBN Channel 2, S+A Channel 23, DZMM 630, and MOR 101.9). The said agency also gave ABS-CBN ten days to explain why its assigned frequencies should not be recalled.[6] On June 30, 2020, considering that Channel 43 was also included in the May 5, 2020 shutdown order issued by the NTC against ABS-CBN (although ABS-CBN CEO Carlo Katigbak insisted that it is part of their blocktime agreement with AMCARA Broadcasting Network), the NTC and Solicitor General Jose Calida released two alias cease-and-desist orders against Channel 43 on digital TV receiver ABS-CBN TV Plus and Sky Cable's nationwide satellite service Sky Direct to cease further operations.[7]

Donald Trump sent a cease and desist letter to CNN asking them to retract a poll that showed him being 14 percentage points behind his opponent Joe Biden during the presidential election,[8] prompting The Atlantic to warn about attacks on the media.[9]

In 2021, Google's platform YouTube issued a significant number of cease and desist notices to the creators of various music bots on Discord, such as Rythm and Groovy. These music bots allowed users to request songs and have the bot create a queue. This was done by pulling the audio stream from various streaming and video platforms, including YouTube, and then played that audio on the Discord voice channel. Because such music bots did not play any of the advertisements included on the video-hosting site, the company alleged missing revenue for itself and the content uploaders. A spokesperson for Google told The Verge that Groovy violated YouTube's terms of service for "modifying the service and using it for commercial purposes".[10] The makers of Groovy had decided to comply with Google's request by shutting down the bot on August 30, 2021. According to estimations, the bot had more than 250 million users.[11]

In 2022, Disney issued a letter of cease and desist to the creators of Club Penguin Rewritten, a game that was created as a remake of Club Penguin after its shutdown on March 31, 2017.[12]

Google issued a letter of cease and desist to the creators of YouTube Vanced, an Android app developed as a third-party modification of YouTube. The app allowed its users to skip advertisements, among other functions. Since March 13, 2022, the app has been discontinued, with all links being removed.[13]

See also


  1. ^ Gold, Michael Evan. An Introduction to Labor Law, p. 17 (Cornell University Press, 1998).
  2. ^ a b c d Trimble, Marketa (2010). "Setting Foot on Enemy Ground: Cease-and-Desist Letters, DMCA Notifications and Personal Jurisdiction in Declaratory Judgment Actions". IDEA: The Intellectual Property Law Review. 50 (4): 777–830. Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  3. ^ Lorch, Robert Stuart (1980). Democratic Process and Administrative Law. Wayne State University Press. p. 158. ISBN 9780814315132.
  4. ^ a b Braswell, Rachael (2007). "Consumer Gripe Sites, Intellectual Property Law, and the Use of Cease-and-Desist Letters to Chill Protected Speech on the Internet". Fordham Intell. Prop. Media & Ent. L.J. 17 (4): 1241–1287. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
  5. ^ Pinsker, Joe (21 September 2017). "Netflix's 'Stranger Things' Cease-and-Desist Letter Wasn't That Cool". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  6. ^ "ABS-CBN to go off air in compliance with NTC order". ABS-CBN News. 5 May 2020. Archived from the original on 9 October 2021. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  7. ^ "NTC to issue alias shutdown order vs ABS-CBN after getting SolGen advice". ABS-CBN News. 29 June 2020. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020. Retrieved 1 July 2020.
  8. ^ Cummings, William. "Trump campaign sends CNN 'cease and desist' letter, demands it retract poll that found Biden up 14 points". USA Today. Archived from the original on 12 June 2020. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  9. ^ Solender, Andrew. "Trump Campaign Demands CNN Apologize And Retract Poll Showing Biden Up 14 Points". Forbes. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  10. ^ Warren, Tom (24 August 2021). "YouTube is forcing the popular Groovy Discord music bot offline". The Verge. Archived from the original on 5 October 2021. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  11. ^ tinelund (25 July 2021). "Groovy Bot The Best Music Bot for Discord. Groovy Bot Discord might be among the best bots created in this ten years". Tinelund.dk (in Danish). Archived from the original on 29 August 2021. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  12. ^ "Club Penguin Rewritten Shut Down by Disney". 13 April 2022. Archived from the original on 13 April 2022. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  13. ^ "YouTube Vanced is shutting down after a legal threat from Google". Business Insider. 12 March 2022. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 19 May 2022.