The Digital Millennium Copyright Act: A Tool to Help Curb Online Abuse

The Digital Millennium Co…

The internet has enabled the sharing of information like never before. In one “click,” a photo or video can be posted and shared with hundreds, or even thousands, of people. At the same time, the qualities that make the internet so appealing can create headaches when unauthorized users pass off content as their own or, worse, disseminate sensitive materials intended for close family or friends to a seemingly limitless audience on the internet.

The Federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) helps to combat these problems: it affords protection to people who create and post content (including, among other things, original artwork, written works, photographs and videos) by forbidding the unauthorized reproduction or publication of the content and authorizing penalties against infringing individuals or businesses who persist in committing violations.

Significantly, under the DMCA, content does not necessarily have to be registered with the Copyright Office in order to be subject to protection. Rather, the fact that the content is an individual’s original work product suffices for purposes of the statute.

To seek the removal of content under the DMCA, a copyright holder may issue a letter – popularly referred to as a DMCA “takedown notice” – requesting that the infringing content be removed. The following information must be included within the letter:

  • Identification of the original content that is being infringed;
  • Identification of the infringing content that is to be removed, along with information reasonably sufficient to permit the material to be located (often, a hyperlink to the infringing content will suffice);
  • Contact information of the individual whose content has been infringed;
  • A statement confirming a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized;
  • A statement confirming that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the aggrieved party is authorized to issue the notice; and
  • A signature of the aggrieved party or his or her attorney.

In some instances, online service providers – including websites that provide discussion forums, and the websites that host them – may even be subject to exposure for violations by individual users responsible for infringement. Nonetheless, a website’s terms and conditions may afford it certain rights to utilize or reproduce posted content.

A DMCA notice can be used as a relatively simple “first step” in securing the removal of infringing online content. In the event that a DMCA takedown notice is ineffective in securing compliance, additional legal action (e.g., a lawsuit) may be necessary.

If you have questions, or would like further assistance with your copyright law needs, please contact Wright Beamer.

Categories: Blog, General Interest

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