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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act: What Business Owners Should Know

Posted on in Intellectual Property

New Port Richey copyright law attorneyAny business owner with an interactive website is directly affected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). If you are not already familiar with this law, here are three things you should know:

Understanding the DMCA Safe Harbor Provision

The DMCA provides important legal protections for internet service providers of all kinds, including social networking sites, online marketplaces, and really, any business website that allows user-uploaded content. A “user” is someone other than you or an employee or agent of your business.

In short, the DMCA’s “safe harbor” provision protects you from being sued for copyright infringement if a user uploads copyrighted work onto your website without the copyright owner’s permission. 

For example, if a member of the general public uploads one of Disney’s copyrighted videos to YouTube without permission, Disney cannot sue YouTube for copyright infringement. Rather, Disney would follow the DMCA takedown procedure described below. 

Similarly, suppose that a creator—such as an artist, photographer, musician, or author—finds copies of their own original work being sold by an unauthorized person in an online marketplace like Etsy, eBay, or Amazon. The original creator would not sue the online marketplace, but would instead follow the DMCA takedown procedure. (Separately, the original creator may have the right to take copyright infringement action against the copycat seller, but that offense is covered under the U.S. Copyright Act, not the DMCA.)

Following the DMCA Takedown Notice Process

The DMCA defines a legal process for the owner of an original work to address copyright infringement claims resulting from user-posted content to another business’s website. Continuing the YouTube example, Disney would send a written takedown notice to YouTube’s designated copyright agent, providing specific information as required by the law. Upon receiving the takedown notice, YouTube should delete the offending content from their website. An experienced cyber law or copyright attorney can help you issue and respond to DMCA takedown notices.

Designating a DMCA Copyright Agent

To be protected under the DMCA safe harbor provisions, your business must designate a copyright agent to receive notifications of claimed infringements. 

In a new regulation that took effect on January 1, 2018, the U.S. Copyright Office requires you to register your designated agent using their online system and re-register every three years.

In addition, if you look at the Terms of Service page on most websites, you will see that they include information about the business’s intellectual property policies, and they typically provide the contact information for the business’s designated agent. 

Consult a Seasoned Florida Intellectual Property Attorney 

If you have a problem with copyright infringement, a Tampa copyright attorney can help you solve it. At Nelson Cyber Law, PLLC, we are well versed in both state and federal copyright, trademark, and trade secret laws, particularly as they pertain to digital and online content. We are prepared to act decisively to protect your copyrighted content and other intellectual property under the DMCA and other copyright laws. Call 1-800-440-5536 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

https://copyrightalliance.org/education/copyright-law-explained/the-digital-millennium-copyright-act-dmca/

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/new-dmca-regulations-january-1-2018

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