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how to react on a copyright complaint

when hosting user-generated content



3:21 pm on Jun 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I own a small blogging website where people post content to their own blogs. I have a simple "terms and conditions" page, to which people agree when they start their blog, and this TOS page states that the member should not break any copyright law.

How should I react if somebody calls me and complains that the content of some user blog contains copyrighted material, and threatens to sue me or to complain to my ISP?

As a webmaster and blog hoster, what kind of protection can I guarantee to the people that open blogs with me? And which is the regular legal way that somebody having a copyright complaint should follow in order to force me into considering the copyright infringement?


5:26 pm on Jun 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I like the way these folks do it:

On their site, they have a "copyright policy", that states they do not support copyright infringement and encourage those who find their copyrighted work on one of their member's sites, to fill out a complaint form.
You might go this way. I think it's important to have not a disclaimer, perse, but take the stance that you are on the side of the copyright owner and will take actions necessary to help protect their intellectual property.


6:24 pm on Jun 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Not sure if this is going to help you as you're going to have to get some very good professional advice, but it might be enough to get you started to understand the questions you're going to have to ask.

Chapter 5 of the current copyright law has a section entitled Limitations on liability relating to material online [copyright.gov]. This is usually referred to as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 'safe harbor' provision. It's a dense read, but basically provides criteria and a system to protect service providers from infringement claims caused by another party.

A search for "dmca safe harbor" will bring up some pages that explain the whole shebang in a bit plainer English. Again, these are good for a start in understanding what questions you're going to have to ask to put some sort of procedures in place (even if it's just a simple checklist of steps to take) so you won't be caught off guard when you get that first notification.


2:45 am on Jul 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The best way to protect your self in this manner is to require the individual to file the complaint under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Their notification must contain the following six points of information (this is from an email Lycos sent me when I filed a complaint with them once):

1. A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

2. Precise identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.

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 or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material including exact URL's and references to specific files.

4. Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, and electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.

5. A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use the of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

6. A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right is allegedly infringed.

If a complaint is filed containing the above information, then you must verify the claim (e.g. look at the two web pages), and submit a notification to the offending party that they need to remove the offending content within a specific time frame or file a challenge to the complaint. If they don't reply and don't remove the offending content, then you must remove it yourself. This is the only way to avoid any culpability in any copyright claim.

If there is reasonable evidence of copyright infringement, it is best to get the offending material removed as quickly as possible. If there is any doubt, contact a lawyer. If you don't address the complaint, you can be culpable in any subsequent legal actions. You don't want to mess around with the DMCA, as DMCA violations can carry penalties up to $150,000 per offense.


11:25 am on Jul 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I agree with prairiedweller, and would add "when it doubt, take it down."

I wouldn't make the aggrieved party have to jump thru hoops before taking action.
Imagine how you would feel in his/her place.

As long as you see the proper info (make that easy too, with a form or whatever)
you can check for yourself with a few clicks.

Don't forget to slap the wrists of the infringers. -Larry

Matt Probert

4:51 pm on Jul 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I agree with prairiedweller, and would add "when it doubt, take it down."

I wouldn't. There are many malicious people claiming copyright infringment unjustly. Let them provide reasonable proof of the offence, and then notify your poster, and then take it offline.



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