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Question: Why does a web host or blogging service provider get DMCA takedown notices?
Answer: Many copyright claimants are making complaints under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Section 512(c)m a safe-harbor for hosts of "Information Residing on Systems or Networks At Direction of Users." This safe harbors give providers immunity from liability for users' possible copyright infringement -- if they "expeditiously" remove material when they get complaints. Whether or not the provider would have been liable for infringement by materials its users post, the provider can avoid the possibility of a lawsuit for money damages by following the DMCA's takedown procedure when it gets a complaint. The person whose information was removed can file a counter-notification if he or she believes the complaint was erroneous.
Question: What does a service provider have to do in order to qualify for safe harbor protection?
Answer: In addition to informing its customers of its policies (discussed above), a service provider must follow the proper notice and takedown procedures (discussed above) and also meet several other requirements in order to qualify for exemption under the safe harbor provisions.
In order to facilitate the notification process in cases of infringement, ISPs which allow users to store information on their networks, such as a web hosting service, must designate an agent that will receive the notices from copyright owners that its network contains material which infringes their intellectual property rights. The service provider must then notify the Copyright Office of the agent's name and address and make that information publicly available on its web site. [512(c)(2)]
Finally, the service provider must not have knowledge that the material or activity is infringing or of the fact that the infringing material exists on its network. [512(c)(1)(A)], [512(d)(1)(A)]. If it does discover such material before being contacted by the copyright owners, it is instructed to remove, or disable access to, the material itself. [512(c)(1)(A)(iii)], [512(d)(1)(C)]. The service provider must not gain any financial benefit that is attributable to the infringing material. [512(c)(1)(B)], [512(d)(2)].
Question: What are the provisions of 17 U.S.C. Section 512(c)(3) & 512(d)(3)?
Answer: Section 512(c)(3) sets out the elements for notification under the DMCA. Subsection A (17 U.S.C. 512(c)(3)(A)) states that to be effective a notification must include: 1) a physical/electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the infringed right; 2) identification of the copyrighted works claimed to have been infringed; 3) identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed; 4) information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party (e.g., the address, telephone number, or email address); 5) a statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material is not authorized by the copyright owner; and 6) a statement that information in the complaint is accurate and that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner. Subsection B (17 U.S.C. 512(c)(3)(B)) states that if the complaining party does not substantially comply with these requirements the notice will not serve as actual notice for the purpose of Section 512.
Section 512(d)(3), which applies to "information location tools" such as search engines and directories, incorporates the above requirements; however, instead of the identification of the allegedly infringing material, the notification must identify the reference or link to the material claimed to be infringing.
Question: Does a service provider have to follow the safe harbor procedures?
Answer: No. An ISP may choose not to follow the DMCA takedown process, and do without the safe harbor. If it would not be liable under pre-DMCA copyright law (for example, because it is not contributorily or vicariously liable, or because there is no underlying copyright infringement), it can still raise those same defenses if it is sued.
Question: How do I file a DMCA counter-notice?
Answer: If you believe your material was removed because of mistake or misidentification, you can file a "counter notification" asking the service provider to put it back up. Chilling Effects offers a form to build your own counter-notice.
For more information on the DMCA Safe Harbors, see the FAQs on DMCA Safe Harbor. For more information on Copyright and defenses to copyright infringement, see Copyright.
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Question: What are the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions?
Answer: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the latest amendment to copyright law, which introduced a new category of copyright violations that prohibit the "circumvention" of technical locks and controls on the use of digital content and products. These anti-circumvention provisions put the force of law behind any technological systems used by copyright owners to control access to and copying of their digital works.
The DMCA contains four main provisions:
- a prohibition on circumventing access controls [1201(a)(1)(A)];
- an access control circumvention device ban (sometimes called the "trafficking" ban) [1201(a)(2)];
- a copyright protection circumvention device ban [1201(b)]; and,
- a prohibition on the removal of copyright management information (CMI) [1202(b)].
The first provision prohibits the act of circumventing technological protection systems, the second and third ban technological devices that facilitate the circumvention of access control or copy controls, and the fourth prohibits individuals from removing information about access and use devices and rules. The first three provisions are also distinguishable in that the first two provisions focus on technological protection systems that provide access control to the copyright owner, while the third provision prohibits circumvention of technological protections against unauthorized duplication and other potentially copyright infringing activities.
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Question: Do the Section 512 Safe Harbor provisions apply to the distribution of circumvention tools such as serial numbers or to methods for disabling copyright management systems?
Answer: Section 512 creates a safe harbor from claims of "copyright infringement" for service providers who meet the statutorily-defined criteria. "Copyright infringement" is defined by Section 501 of the Copyright Act as any violation of the exclusive rights granted in sections 106 through 121 of the Act. Copyright infringement thus does not include violations of the DMCA's Anticircumvention provisions, which are found in Section 1201 et seq. While they are unlikely to be deemed direct infringers, distributors of serial numbers may face either vicarious or contributory liability for copyright infringement. Vicarious liability requires that the distributor have the right and ability to control the infringer's behavior and direct financial gain by the distributor. In circumstances of serial numbers posted on free message boards of Usenet groups, the distributor likely lacks both control and financial benefit. Contributory liability requires that the distributor possess knowledge of infringing conduct and materially contribute to the infringement. Although a distributor of serial numbers is likely aware that the numbers will be used to infringe, under Sony, if the serial numbers are capable of capable of "substantial non infringing use" contributory infringement may not be found.
The anticircumvention provisions prohibit circumvention of technological access protection systems as well as the distribution of tools that facilitate circumvention of access or copy protection systems. The publication of serial numbers, for example, would likely constitute the distribution of a "technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof" that facilitates circumvention of an access control. Under ? 1201 such a tool must either be primarily designed for or produced circumvention, have limited commercial purpose other than circumvention, or be marketed for circumvention. It is unlikely, however, that the publication would constitute "copyright infringement" as defined.
While a service provider may be under no obligation to remove material in violation of the Anticircumvention provisions in order to maintain its safe harbor protection from copyright infringement, by hosting such material the provider is exposed to potential secondary liability under Section 1201 and may therefore have an independent reason for removing the material.
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Question: What rights do I have if someone knowingly demands removal of material to which they do not have the rights?
Answer: Under Section 512(f) of the Copyright Act one who knowingly materially misrepresents a claim of infringement is liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys' fees, incurred by the alleged infringer or ISP injured by the misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon the misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing.
If you are harmed by a mistaken takedown (as poster or as ISP), you may be able to recover damages and your legal fees from the person who made the wrongful claim.