Brief Explanation about DMCA safe harbor

Copyright is a big issue when you manage a website.  Most people don’t even bother reading it until they receive an intimidating email regarding the content they posted.  Today I like to cover the general knowledge about DMCA.

DMCA was passed by the congress in 1998 and was made to counter the internet copyright infringement issues.  Anything that’s copyrighted shouldn’t be uploaded, but it’s inevitable when you hold a website that has user generated contents.

Before DMCA, websites like YouTube was liable for copyright infringement, even when it was the users whom upload it.  Stuff like videos, music, and images were all copyrighted and couldn’t be shared online because it can cost over 100,000 dollars for each item in question.

To fix this, DMCA generated “safe harbor” for websites that had user generated contents.  This protected the website owner as long as they followed DMCA takedown notice and rules.

There are many ways to go about this and every companies have different process.  However, the foundation and the process are similar throughout.  The process starts with the copyright owner contacting the website owner, then the website owner contacts the user who uploaded the content.  From there, the user either delete/modify the content or fights back saying he or she owns the content (or at least owns the license for it).  After user review, the website owner contacts the copyright holder back with all the information.  From there, it’s up to the copyright holder to either have the content taken down or retract the take down notice.  If the copyright right holder wants the content down, the website owner must take it down and warn the user of the issue as long as he or she is the legit copyright holder.

If the content is modified, the copyright user has the right to review the modified material.  From there the copyright holder can retract the original notice, do nothing, or have it taken down (usually disabled).

If the user who uploaded the content feels that they had their content taken down when they’re the original content holder, they can send the website owner a counter notice.  From there, if two parties won’t back out, one of them will be getting sued and will result in court action.

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