The DMCA and What It Means To Your Online Business

Written by Wesley Henderson

September 12, 2020

computer with coffee

Do you encourage users to post on your site? If so, then you need to understand how to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) to your advantage. It provides a lot of protection for you. The DMCA is a copyright law designed to ensure that websites are protected from copyright infringement liability. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in October 1998, back when just one in three US households had internet access and AOL was king.

It was clear that in light of new technology, and the new way information was being shared and used, old copyright law wasn’t gonna cut it.

Who is protected by the DMCA?

Two types of parties are protected by the DMCA, and

  1. The copyright owner, who has rights to protect their intellectual property.
  1. Internet service providers like search engines, entertainment providers, or e-commerce sites, which are not held responsible for the actions of their users who may violate copyright law.

Individual users on the service providers’ platforms who violate copyright law by posting copyrighted material are not protected under the DMCA. 

Protect Your Business by Qualifying for “safe harbor”

The DMCA has some “safe harbors” in it that protect online service providers from infringement liability, as long as they qualify. 

To qualify, you need to have no knowledge that there was anything infringing on your site, you cannot have benefited from it financially, and you have to remove the material promptly once you know it’s there. Often, you’ll only find out about the infringement after the copyright holder sends you a notice in what’s called the “notice-and-takedown” procedure.

You also have to designate an agent to be the person who receives takedown notices. Choose someone, make sure their name and contact information are available on your website. You can also register them with the Copyright Office. If you do not have attorney-drafted terms and conditions, you can buy them here.

You should also make it clear to your users that you do not tolerate copyright violation and that you will take action if notified of infringement to remove the content and even block the user or limit their privileges. This should be part of the Terms and Conditions on your website. 

Action Steps

  • Promptly remove any copyrighted material after you receive a valid notice.
  • Review your Terms & Conditions to ensure you’re protected (or, just buy our here)
  • Include a clause on Content or DMCA in your site’s Terms and Conditions notifying users that they are not allowed to post or publish copyrighted works on your platform, and the consequences if they do. You can also let copyright holders know that if their copyrighted material does appear on your platform, you’ll comply with notice-and-takedown procedures.
  • Designate a takedown agent with the Copyright Office and make their contact info available on your site. 

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