The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, was a massive piece of legislation that added and updated the copyright laws for the computer age. It includes numerous provisions, such as ones creating liability for circumventing technological protective measures to copyrighted works, like breaking CAPTCHA codes or cracking RSA keys to access copyrighted material (software, databases, other information).
It also created a process through which a copyright owner can request their work be removed from a website that appears to have copied it. When a copyright owner finds that its content has been reproduced elsewhere – perhaps the text of a site is copied wholesale or a picture is reproduced without authorization on another site – the copyright owner can generally go to two sources to remove the content: the website owner and the website host or ISP. It can often be difficult to find publicly available contact information for the website owner and ISPs are typically very reluctant to give out such information without a subpoena. Thus, it is generally easier to approach the ISP.
Before the DMCA, ISPs could be held liable for the website’s reproduction of infringing material. However, the DMCA gives ISPs and other web hosts an exception from liability if they take certain actions when they receive a take-down request from a copyright owner. It is thus generally in the ISPs interest to respond seriously to DMCA take-down requests, meaning such request letters can be quite effective.
DMCA take-down letters must meet certain statutory requirements regarding identification of the content, the rights of the copyright owner, and the nature of the infringement. Take-down requests that don’t properly recite the required information can be ignored by the ISP; they need only respond to letters that comply with the requirements. Further, sending a letter can trigger a response letter from the infringing site, as the DMCA provides that it be notified of the take-down request. If continued action is required, the matter can become more complicated than sending the letter. If you have more questions about DMCA take-down procedures, please contact Tom Galvani at 602-281-6481.