Understanding What DMCA Notices Are

DMCA stands for the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. This is a copyright law in the United States that implements two treaties created in 1996 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Enacted by then-president Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998 this copyright law deals with the special challenges brought about by regulating digital media.

How the Law Works

When you publish something on the world-wide web (Internet) you hold the copyright to it whether it’s an image, writing, or song. Finding someone who’s stolen this and placed it on their website is angering. If this happens, you can send them a notice demanding they take the item down. These are known as DMCA takedown notices or DMCA notices for short.

What These Notices Include

There are four important steps included in sending these notices. They include:

Take a screenshot of the infringement. Make sure you do this first because once you send a notice the website must remove the infringing material and it’ll be too late to take a screenshot then.

Locate the website’s host, which is whom you’ll send the notice to. You can’t sue any website based in the United States whose user infringes on your copyright. However, they must follow a specific procedure to remove the content once they’ve receive the notice. Any web host based outside of the United States doesn’t have to comply with the DMCA unless they’re part of the European Union or they’re in Australia.

Make sure you send your notice to the right person. Here you’re looking for the Copyright Agent. Click on “legal” or “terms of use” in the website’s footer as the information is usually found there. Otherwise, you may need to contact the U.S. Copyright Office Directory of Copyright Agents. You’re searching for whom to send your grievance letter.

Draft and send a letter that specifically states what material they’ve infringed on, where it’s located, your contact information, and digital signature. Make sure you’ve stated that you have a “good faith belief” that this is copyrighted material. This is a statement you’ll want to make under penalty of perjury so that you’re taken seriously.

Other Legal Options

Sometimes these notices simply don’t work and you’ll need to consider your other options. These include:

Ask the website owner to add a credit to the image linking it back to your website

Send a cease and desist letter demanding that the website’s owner pay you for using your copyrighted material on their website or hire a lawyer to do this for you

Hire an attorney to file a lawsuit on your behalf about copyright infringement

DMCA notices are really helpful today as long as the copyrighted material doesn’t fall under “fair use.” When this happens the copyrighted material can stay on the website. This typically includes times when someone uses your copyrighted material for a transformative purpose such as commenting on, criticizing, or making a parody of the material. When this is the case the website owner doesn’t need your permission to use your copyrighted material. The fair use law also pertains to anyone who’s using copyrighted material for educational purposes.

It’s important that you have a clear understanding of the issue before you take any type of recourse about what you believe is copyright infringement. As such, you may wish to speak with an attorney first.