In today’s digital world, where online content sharing is the norm and 3D printers can produce numerous copies of any product within minutes, dealing with the copyright law online is like fishing in murky waters. Not many small business owners know what it is and how it impacts their business site
Here, in today’s post, we’ve got you covered – right from the origin of the DMCA to its impact on websites, and why it makes sense to create a copyright policy for your site, we cover all the aspects of this controversial policy.
Officially known as the "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" or DMCA in short, it’s a copyright law that was introduced in the US in 1998. It implements two laws of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) that were coined in 1996.
According to the DMCA, using technology overriding measures that restrict access to copyrighted material is a crime. According to the DMCA, even if there are no copyright infringements, the very act of trying to circumvent the access control is a crime.
The DMCA is also known as DRM or Digital Rights Management. It increases penalties for copyright infringements on the world wide web.
Regular activities on the internet like downloading movies, music and other files illegally could attract huge penalties. Consider this case, where a student who illegally downloaded thirty songs was fined a whopping $675,000 under the DMCA.
The DMCA is highly restricting and rigid. It enforces old-school laws that don’t fit in today’s digital world. For instance, consider the case of memes. They are indeed a copyright nightmare. A single photo today has countless variations on the internet as memes. So, who is the owner of the meme? Should the meme creator pay copyright to the photographer or media owner? But, then hasn’t the meme owner created something new? The questions are endless.
Say, you buy a DVD or Blu-ray of the latest Hollywood movie. According to the DMCA, you cannot burn it or copy it, even for personal uses. DRM coding was placed on DVDs to prevent such copying acts and circumventing this rule is considered illegal. As an extension of this law, it’s illegal to jailbreak gaming consoles, phones and other devices.
With that said, there are plenty of situations, where the DMCA helps protect your business. Here’s why,
As a business, you spend a considerable amount of money and time on creating a content rich website with the help of woocommerce experts. You even hire the best SEO agency to boost your website ranking.
Yet, most businesses are unaware that other similar businesses and even direct competitors copy content from their website. Yes, others could be using the content you have painstakingly created and benefit from it.
Does your business have a system to track, monitor and resolve copyright infringement? If not yet, you should seriously consider implementing one. This is because, spotting cases of copyright infringement as early as possible is essential to maintain your competitive edge online.
One reason why others steal content from your website is due to the high performance of your site, from an SEO perspective. If others are copying from your site, then it could lead to a drop in your SEO rankings. Though any professional ecommerce website development company advises to create original content, plagiarism is not rare in the industry.
Let’s say you run an ecommerce marketplace, where others can sell their products using your site. What if a seller adds a product image that is copied? Are you liable for it? Will you be punished for the crimes of your users?
This is another aspect of the DMCA. It protects your business from copyright infringements and potentially expensive lawsuits.
Coming to the big questions, how to benefit from the DMCA? How to create the right DMCA policy for your business.
Before we get to the crux of the matter, let’s run down a few basics.
A copyright infringement occurs when someone copies or creates other derivative works, displays, performs, or distributes, without authorization, any work that is protected by copyright.
According to this, if a copyright protected video is uploaded on YouTube, both the uploader and YouTube are subject to copyright infringement. If you’re wondering, then how the heck it is possible for YouTube to survive in business, then you’re on the right track. After all, thousands of YouTube users upload such videos daily, right?
This is where the DMCA plays a crucial role. Enter the DMCA Safe Harbor.
To protect the rights of website operators like YouTube and internet service providers, the US congress implemented the DMCA in 1998 with a provision for a safe harbor. This allows internet service providers, website operators to execute a notice and a takedown procedure.
Specifically, the DMCA provides a safe harbor or immunity for website operators and internet service providers to protect them from copyright infringement under these conditions:
For implementing the notice and takedown procedure, the website operator must:
To benefit from the safe harbor of the DMCA, you need to register a Designated Copyright agent for your site. You should file a request with the Copyright office. This is only available for the US. You can complete the registration process by using the new electronic system of the Copyright’s office.
Remember that the registration is only valid for three years. You have to renew it after that, if you don’t want to lose the safe harbor protection.
Coming to the actual contents of your DMCA policy, it should clearly specify how copyright owners can file a case of copyright infringement and what to include while submitting the claim.
Here are a few suggestions of what to include in the DMCA policy of your site:
1. Clear identification of the copyrighted work
2. Identification of the material that is allegedly copying from the original work
3. Accurate contact information of the person who is submitting the claim
4. A statement that proves that the claim is made in good faith
5. A statement that the claim is accurate and is liable for penalty of perjury
6. Signature of the person submitting the claim
If you receive a copyright claim, once you have set up a DMCA policy, then you must remove or disable the alleged copied material on your site and notify the user who has uploaded it on your site to remove the material. They can then file a counter notice if they have not violated any copyright infringements.
Additionally, if a user makes repeated offences, then you may consider removing that user from accessing your website.
It doesn’t protect you from other digital offences like violations of trade secret laws, non-disclosure agreements, trademark infringements, defamation claims and more.
The Safe Harbor of DMCA ensures that your platform or ecommerce site remain protected from the actions of your users. This is what that has helped major online platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook remain sources of creative content where users can submit and share content.
Now, coming to the other side of the equation,
The first step is to use copyscape.com, to find if other copies of your website exist on the internet. Type in the home page of your site and do a search. If you get results, then you know that your content has been copied online. Use the advanced tools available on this site, to track other pages that may have your content. If doing this at regular intervals seems exigent, you can hire a professional seo services agency who can keep an eye on your content while making efforts to boost your website search engine visibility.
Once you have identified web pages that have copied your content, the next step is to request them to take down the content. You will likely face any one of these three scenarios:
If the hosting company (like hostgator) and others provide a DMCA form, then all you have to do is fill in the form, submit the take down request and notify the provider.
In such cases, you’ll have to draft a formal DMCA takedown notice and mail it to the hosting provider. There are plenty of guidelines available on how to create a DMCA takedown notice.
Once you send this notice, the hosting company will get back to you. They will then send a notice to the user and request them to take down the infringing content. Once the user removes the content, the hosting provider will alert you of the procedure and then close the case. In the case, that the user refuses to take down the material, the hosting company can either disable that particular page or the entire site.
Since, the DMCA is a US-law, chances are that the hosting company will not take actions to honor the DMCA. However, several international hosting providers have their version of copyright infringement. So, shoot out an email to the hosting company, specifying all the details like your website address, the url of the web page that has your content, copyscape results and other details. Specify that it’s a case of copyright infringement and ask them to take the necessary action. Most international hosting companies are likely to take the required actions and remove the offending pages.
While it may feel complicated, implementing the DMCA policy for your website is well worth the time and resources you spend on it. It not only protects you from the mistakes of your users, but also gives you immunity that could help you avoid expensive lawsuits.