Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998

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The DMCA’s principal innovation in the field of copyright is the exemption from direct and indirect liability of Internet service providers and other intermediaries. This exemption was adopted by the European Union in the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000. The Copyright Directive 2001 implemented the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty in the EU.   Read More

Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 PDF

U.S. Copyright Office Summary

Rick Kurnit, partner at New York law firm of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz, Pc

“In the simplest terms what the Digital Millenium Copyright Act does is provide  a safe harbor for people who distribute content so that they don’t have to investigate and be clear about the rights, provided you comply with the requirements of the act, which essentially is that you register so people can send a takedown notice to you and you take these things down when properly required to you won’t be liable for all the initial publishing.”

as found in Steven Rosenbaum, “Curation Nation”, p. 116.

For more detailed information about how you can protect your website from liability for content your users submit by taking advantage of the DMCA safe harbors, click here.  This is a basic guide on the registration process for the DMCA safe harbor.  Of course in addition to registering you must take a number of affirmative steps (terminating repeat infringers, responding to takedown notice) that we discuss in other guides.

Before using this guide, first identify whether you are an online service provider. Online service providers are websites which allow users to generate content of their own and upload it to the website. READ MORE

There are 4 categories of providers, and, each must respond to a takedown notice as detailed in the DMCA. The categories include the following:

*The most important category with regards to many new media services and web sites is the hosting services category, which originally targeted mostly web hosting services and focused on websites, but now also covers many Web 2.0 services, including blogs, podcasts, social media sites such as video, audio, and image sharing sites(Youtube, Flickr,, etc.  READ MORE

The $105 Fix That Could Protect You From Copyright-Troll Lawsuits

Call it ingenious, call it evil or call it a little of both: Copyright troll Righthaven is exploiting a loophole in intellectual property law, suing websites that might have avoided any trace of civil liability had they spent a mere $105.

That’s the fee for a blog or other website to register a DMCA takedown agent with the U.S. Copyright Office, an obscure bureaucratic prerequisite to enjoying a legal “safe harbor” from copyright lawsuits over third-party posts, such as reader comments.

There’s no better time to become acquainted with that requirement.

Founded in March, the Las Vegas-based Righthaven has begun buying out the copyrights to newspaper content of the Las Vegas Review-Journal for the sole purpose of suing blogs and websites that re-post, or even excerpt, those articles without permission. The company has settled about 60 of 160 cases for a few thousand dollars each, and plans to expand its operations to other newspapers across the country.

Many of its lawsuits arise, not from articles posted by a website’s proprietors, but from comments and forum posts by the site’s readers. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a website enjoys effective immunity from civil copyright liability for user content, provided they, promptly remove infringing material at the request of a rightsholder. That’s how sites like YouTube are able to exist, and why allows users to post comments to our stories without fear that a single user’s cut-and-paste will cost us $150,000 in court.

Wired Original Article Link


Designating Your Own DMCA Agent

The DMCA provides Web hosts a great deal of protection when it comes to copyright infringement taking place on their servers. If hosts met the requirements and take a few simple steps, they can not be held liable for any infringement perpetrated by their users.

This is great news to hosts who, before 1998, were operating in a fog of legal uncertainty. Before the law was passed, there was a large debate about whether or not hosts could be sued for infringement, even if they were unaware of it taking place.

Read More at Plagiarism Today

Protecting Yourself Against Copyright Claims Based on User Content

If you publish or use the creative work of others, their trademarks, or certain confidential business information without the permission of the owner, you may be exposing yourself to legal liability for violations of intellectual property law. Fortunately, if you allow your site’s user to post this type of content you can protect yourself from copyright infringement claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), as long as you establish effective “notice-and-takedown” procedures, promptly remove content when a copyright owner notifies you that it is infringing, and have no knowledge that the material in question is infringing.  This page explains how this important law works.

Section 512 of the DMCA contains what are called the “safe-harbor” provisions for online service providers. These safe harbor provisions may shield you from liability for the copyright infringements of your site’s users and for linking to copyright-infringing material from other online sources, as long as you establish effective “notice-and-takedown” procedures, promptly remove content when a copyright owner notifies you that it is infringing, and have no actual or effective knowledge that the material in question is infringing. Section 512 has a somewhat confusing structure; if you are interested in navigating the language of the statute, this paper from Fenwick & West LLP attempts to lay out the terms of section 512 in a more logical fashion.

You are not legally required to comply with the safe harbor provisions of section 512, but doing so may help you avoid copyright infringement liability. The sections below address those provisions of section 512 that may apply to you and discuss what you need to do in order to take advantage of the safe harbor provisions.

Storing and Linking to Copyrighted Content: Sections 512(c) and (d)

There are two safe-harbor provisions that potentially apply to your online publishing activities.

The first safe-harbor provision relates to materials posted to your blog or website at the direction of a user. This could include a file (e.g., a photograph, a film clip, an audio file) that a user posts to a comment section on your site or to a forum thread. (There are many other potential examples, the important thing is that the material is posted by another person, not you). This safe-harbor provision is found in section 512(c), and it states that, as the administrator of a website or other service, you will not be held liable for money damages for infringing content posted “at the direction of a user,” as long as you

  • do not have actual knowledge that there is infringing content on your servers, or know any surrounding facts that would make the infringing use apparent;
  • do not receive any financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity if you have the ability to control such activity; and
  • act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the infringing material upon obtaining knowledge or awareness that the material is infringing or upon receiving a properly drafted notice of infringement (more below).

The second safe-harbor provision relates to links you post to other online material located elsewhere. This safe-harbor provision is found in section 512(d), and it states that an online service provider will not be held liable for money damages “for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider referring or linking users to an online location containing infringing material or infringing activity, by using information location tools, including a directory, index, reference, pointer, or hypertext link.” (emphasis added). If you linked to material without knowing that it infringed copyright, the language of this section appears to relieve you of liability, as long as you… From Digital Media Law Project