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If you notice that someone else is stealing your content and posting it elsewhere on the web, such as videos on YouTube or articles posted on their blog, the law has set up a specific takedown process by which you must file a complaint. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act outlines the steps that must be taken, and what they can do in response if they believe the complaint was filed in error.
The Safe Harbor:
The ISP that is hosting the infringing piece of content is most likely going to take advantage of what’s called a “safe harbor” under copyright law. This means that, even though they are technically hosting the content and violating the law, they are safe if they promise to take down the infringing content when properly notified. If they don’t take it down, they may lose their safe harbor status and be liable for any for any future violations. Because of these consequences, most ISPs, such as YouTube, will take down any content they are notified of.
The takedown process:
The address that DMCA takedown notices should be directed to is usually on an ISP’s Terms of Service document. In order to take advantage of the safe harbor, ISPs are required to post this information and their copyright policy publicly. They must also register with the U.S. Copyright Office. This is a list of all registered agents on www.copyright.gov.
In order to notify an ISP that they are hosting your content, specific information must be sent to them. This includes the following:
A specific description of the content that is being infringed;
A specific description of where the infringing content is located on their site (including a URL and a screenshot, if possible);
Contact information for the complaining party (you), including name, address, phone number and email address;
A statement of good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent or the law;
A statement, under penalty of perjury, that the information is accurate;
A statement that you are the owner of the copyright, or the authorized representative of the owner; and
An electronic or physical signature.
What happens next?
Once that notice is sent, the ISP must then take down the content and inform the poster of the infringing material what has happened. That person then has the option to file a DMCA counter-notice.
My next post will deal with this other side of the takedown procedure, namely what to do if you’ve received a DMCA takedown notice. Stay tuned next week. In the meantime, if you notice infringing content out there, or you have received a takedown notice that you believe is in error, feel free to contact an attorney who deals in this area for help.