The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is an important law that everyone who creates content on the Internet should know about. This law provides two major benefits:
- it shields Internet service providers from copyright infringement liability if its terms are followed, and
- it provides a process to get stolen content taken down from the Internet.
Getting content taken down:
When someone takes one of your blog posts, photos or other pieces of content and posts it on their own site, this can be very bad for a number of reasons. It can harm your SEO. It can steal or confuse your potential customers. It can rob you of revenue, whether you have ads on your site or use affiliate links.
Luckily, the DMCA provides you with a process for getting that stolen content removed from hosting. You do this by sending a takedown notice to the host of the content. While that seems simple, there can be any number of roadblocks to getting this content taken down.
It can harm your SEO. It can steal or confuse your potential customers. It can rob you of revenue, whether you have ads on your site or use affiliate links.
Some hurdles that must be overcome:
The first hurdle is figuring out whether or not you own the content. If you created it from scratch, you are probably fine. But if you had someone else make it for you or you simply licensed it from someone else, you may not have standing to send the DMCA takedown notice.
The second issue is determining whether the posting of the content is even infringing on your rights. There are many situations where someone else can use some of your content without your permission. This is mainly a fair use issue under US copyright law, something I cover in my course on the DMCA.
Another important issue is that the notice that you send must comply with the requirements of the DMCA. This means it has to have certain information in it in order for the ISP to actually be required to do the takedown. There are also some situations where, even if it is incomplete, the ISP at least has to let you know what else is required.
There are many situations where someone else can use some of your content without your permission. This is mainly a fair use issue under US copyright law…
It’s very useful, but not a perfect system:
There are many holes in the DMCA system. One of these holes is the fact that it only really applies to US-based ISPs and web hosts, though many international hosts still adhere to it to avoid being sued in the US. Another big problem is when an ISP simply ignores the request.
The only other option after that is to go to the courts, which costs money. I’ve had a blog post translated into Vietnamese and hosted on a Vietnamese ISP. Sending a DMCA notice got me nowhere, and I’m not about to institute a lawsuit in Vietnam to go after them.
In some cases, it is difficult to actually track down the company hosting the infringing content. There may be nested hosts and ISPs passing the buck. Other times, the infringer will continue to repost the content after it is taken down. It can turn into a game of Whack-a-mole.
I’ve had a blog post translated into Vietnamese and hosted on a Vietnamese ISP. Sending a DMCA notice got me nowhere, and I’m not about to institute a lawsuit in Vietnam to go after them.
A powerful tool:
Even with these drawbacks, the DMCA is a powerful tool to protect your rights in online content. I’ve created a course on the Udemy learning platform that covers:
- the different steps in analyzing a DMCA takedown situation,
- searching out who is hosting content,
- drafting and sending the takedown notice,
- what to do if your own content is taken down,
- and more!
The course contains checklists, resources and cheat sheets, including my eBook on Fair Use for Internet content creators. While some situations will require the help of an attorney, many simple takedowns can be done on your own.
If you sign up for the course through this link, you can buy it for just $27 and save $70 off of the normal price. Udemy offers a 30-day money back guarantee and lifetime access to the lectures. You can also download them to your mobile device or tablet for offline viewing. Get it now!