Everything You Need to Know About DMCA Protection

Whether you’re blogging as a personal outlet or you use one of many online platforms as part of your business, you want to protect your content. After all, they’re your words, your ideas, and your media.

Yet the internet is a digital Wild West in many ways. With debates over what is public domain and what is not, how do you guard your work?

Can you prevent others from copywriting your material and calling it their own?

The short answer to that question is yes. With DMCA protection, people now have better control over their online content and how it is used by others. However, there are certain rules and processes to keep in mind.

Discover what this amendment covers and how in our comprehensive guide below.

What Does DMCA Protected Mean?

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The purpose behind it is to protect creative works posted online.

DMCA is composed of a series of rights outlined for various creative media shared on the internet, including articles, photos, and videos.

Yet creatives aren’t the only ones protected under this amendment. Both copyright owners and Internet or Online Service Providers (sometimes known as ISP’s or OSP’s).

DMCA protection refers to the rights given to your work through this amendment when it is copyrighted.

The History of DMCA Protection

The DMCA Amendment isn’t new. Its creation came after the introduction of two treaties in 1996: the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms (WPPT).

These treaties were designed to protect copyrighted materials on an international scale. Through them, copyrights from other countries became eligible for recognition in the same way as copyrights established within the US.

Yet the need for new laws didn’t stop there. DMCA was signed into US law on October 28, 1998, by President Bill Clinton, just two years after the above treaties.

This amendment further defined the rights of individuals with copyrighted creative materials in relation to its use on the world wide web.

So why was this necessary? If an item is copyrighted, shouldn’t that establish all the rights necessary for your work to be protected?

It is now, thanks to DMCA’s implementation.

Technology brought to light new issues that traditional copyright laws were not designed to tackle. The internet was a completely different landscape. Its digital forum opened doors for easy sharing with a wide audience in a nature that previously was undefined.

Books, music, movies, and other creative media became easily accessible online in spite of existing copyrights. Likewise, international copyrights were being violated. The internet knew no lines, legally or nationally.

This digital Wild West needed laws and regulations to tame it. Thus, DMCA was created, drawing the lines between what was permissible and what was not amidst the digital domain.

A Breakdown of DMCA Protection and What It Covers

DMCA overview

DMCA is a helpful law, but it isn’t all-encompassing. While it offers protection against common copyright violations, it doesn’t defend against every discrepancy on the web.

DMCA has its limitations, which is why it’s important to understand what it covers and how it works.

What DMCA Covers

This amendment covers copyrighted textual content, imagery, audio files, and video files that are rightfully yours.

However, this doesn’t extend to more abstract, unfinished, or commonplace items, such as ideas or names. Nor does it cover you in countries outside of the US. Whatever transpires in outside countries must be dealt with according to its nation’s laws.

What is Considered Copyrighted?

Many creative works register for copyrights in order to protect their creation. This process is common for works such as books and films.

Yet you don’t need to go through this detailed process in order to have copyrights. Even without a copyright, your online content is protected by copyright laws. All you have to do is simply click “publish” on your blog or website.

From that moment when your final content is live, it qualifies for rights under copyright law.

But if this is the case, what’s the point in registering for a copyright in the first place? The answer is simple: you can’t sue without filing for copyright registration.

Without registration, you have the right to apply for a takedown notice, which legally requires the infringer of your work to remove his or her illegal use of it.

Limitations Through Fair Use and DMCA Safe Harbor

Sometimes people confuse copyright with an infallible claim on content that cannot be referenced by anyone without permission.

However, that’s not the way copyrights work. Others can still use your content in a limited number of ways, so long as they do so properly. This falls under the fair use policy.

Understanding What Falls Under the Fair Use Policy

Americans love to exercise the right of free speech, and part of that includes the ability to use or reference copyrighted material in order to express their thoughts on it.

Whether you’re referencing copyrighted material as a source, quoting it for the sake of commentary or criticism, or reinventing it through a parody, you are free to do so without the permission of the content’s original owner.

Legally, this is described as using a work for “transformative” purposes. It’s a description just as ambiguous as it sounds. The reason for this is because those who made the Fair Use Policy did not want to make its definition rigid.

Instead, they wanted it to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in order to keep this freedom as fair as possible.

So what does fair use look like? Most instances pair down to instances of criticism, commentary, or parody. Examples include:

  • Quoting a source to back up a point in a new article or blog
  • Using an excerpt of copyrighted material for educational purposes, such as a lesson or example
  • A new piece of work that mocks or ridicules a previously published piece of work in an attempt to make a statement

Parodies tend to have the freest reign. Unlike other examples of free use, they can use a large quantity of the original work in order to flesh out their creative expression.

None of these examples fall under infringement because they expand upon the work they are referencing or using in order to create something new.

Whether you agree with their expansion is not relevant to its legality.

An Explanation of DMCA Safe Harbor and the Entities It Protects

Also within the DMCA amendment is a safe harbor for specific entities. These include any internet service providers as well as websites or online services that offer file sharing or publishing capabilities.

These entities must fall under one of four safe harbor categories in order to be protected:

  • The infringing content was uploaded through the direction of the service user and not the service provider
  • The entity simply supplies the connection in which the infringer abused copyright, but doesn’t deliberately give them access for the use of illegal activity
  • The infringing material becomes cached on a system or network but was initially added by someone other than the entity who owns the system or network
  • The entity unknowingly provided links or referrals to the infringing content (IE: search engine results)

These safe harbors are solely applied for the sake of protecting these entities against copyright claims. It does not cover non-copyright claims, foreign copyright claims, or any instances where the internet service provider or online service provider is directly responsible for copyright infringement or serves as an accomplice for the deed.

Exercising Your Right to Execute a Takedown Notice

Now that you understand what the DMCA is and what it covers, you need to understand how to act if a situation arises.

Should your copyrighted materials be infringed upon, you can issue a takedown notice. This document is sent to whatever company infringes upon your copyrights.

A takedown notice always includes these 5 things:

  • The copyright owner’s name as well as his or her contact information
  • A physical or digital signature of the copyright owner verifying his or her takedown notice
  • Evidence or proof of the individual’s ownership of the copyrighted material
  • A statement of good faith verifying that they did not grant permission for their content to be uploaded or used by the infringing party and that they believe the use violates their rights

You can either file a takedown notice yourself or you can opt to use a service to do the work for you. Either way, it’s a 3-step process. First, you must identify the service provider.

All takedown notices are submitted to the service provider first, who then contacts the user in violation.

To do this, simply use an online tool that identifies the infringing page’s:

  • Hosting provider
  • Domain registrar
  • Website owner
  • Internet service provider

These tools are free to use. One of the most common is WHOIs.com. Simply paste the domain into the text field and click search.

Next, you draft the DMCA notice. If you’re doing this yourself, you can Google search and download a free template to use as a guide. This document includes:

  • The notice’s subject
  • An introduction
  • An explanation for the notice
  • Proof of copyright ownership
  • A good faith statement
  • A perjury statement
  • The name, contact information, and signature of the copyright owner

This notice is then mailed to the internet service provider or the domain registrar if the internet service provider fails to comply.

What If You Get a Takedown Notice?

But what if the tables are turned? Not every copyright infringement is intentional. Sometimes individuals find themselves unexpectedly crossing the line.

If you receive a takedown notice or DMCA notice in the mail, don’t ignore it. Always respond quickly and appropriately. This includes removing the content immediately.

In most cases, the removal of copyright infringing content is enough to satiate the claim. This is especially true if you’re merely an individual with no real financial backing, audience, or influence.

However, if further legal action is taken it’s best to seek legal counsel.

What If the Takedown Notice is Wrong?

Not all takedown notices are deserved. Sometimes they can be sent to individuals who aren’t truly infringing on copyrights.

If you find yourself receiving a takedown notice, but you are confident there is nothing infringing about your content, then you can take action. Those who disagree with a takedown notice have the right to send a DMCA counter-notice.

This is just what it sounds like. Counter-notices are responses drafted to the individual who issued the takedown notice. It looks very similar to the original document, but it details your reasons for believing the material under scrutiny isn’t breaking the law.

Be careful with this process. A counter-notice shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you counter a takedown notice, but you are truly in the wrong, it can lead to further legal action.

If the copyright owner has their copyright registered, this case could legally become a lawsuit.

If you have any doubts at all about the legality of your content, seek legal counsel. Make sure you have a case before arguing with the owner of the copyrighted material.

In reality, DMCA counter-notices aren’t very common. Most individuals aren’t invested enough to argue a takedown notice.

Those who do are typically individuals fighting malicious abuse of the DMCA amendment. They serve a counter-notice in defense of their content or use of their platform.

During the period in which a case is being disputed, the content under scrutiny for infringement is typically removed and/or its user banned. Fighting an infringement case often takes a lot of time and effort.

Create a Blog with Confidence

With DMCA protection, you can write, create, and publish with confidence. Now discover how to turn that content into something you can monetize.

Blogging is an incredible tool for both businesses and individuals. You can build your online brand, draw in traffic, grow your audience, and even turn it into a powerful conversion tool.

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