Copyright Infringement : What to do, and how the DMCA plays into it.

Posting an image online these days is easier than ever. While this makes visibility for your work great, (yay!), there are always concerns about misuse or theft (copyright infringement -- eek!). Much of the content on the internet is hosted by the networks of third parties, as most folks do not run their own servers. This means that the potentially infringing activities of individuals can be stored and transmitted through these third party, online service providers (OSPs), most likely without the OSP's knowledge.

Because of this, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides a safe harbor for these OSPs. Section 512 of the DMCA protects OSPs from liability for information posted or transmitted by subscribers if the OSP quickly removes or disables access to material identified in a copyright holder's complaint.

In order to qualify for safe harbor protection, the OSP hosting the content must:

  • have no knowledge of, or financial benefit from, infringing activity on its network
  • have a copyright policy and provide proper notification of that policy to its subscribers
  • list an agent to deal with copyright complaints

Note however that the OSP is not required to notify you before your allegedly infringing material is removed. If the material on your site does not infringe the intellectual property rights of a copyright owner and has been improperly removed from the internet, you can file a counter-notice with the OSP, who must transmit it to the person who made the complaint. If the copyright owner does not notify the OSP within 14 business days that it has filed a claim against you in court, your materials can be restored to the Internet.

If you see your work on a website, and believe that it is being used without your permission, you do have some recourse. Here are the steps we recommend:

  1. Contact the administrator of the website, and inform them that you believe your work is being used without your permission, and ask them to take it down. (Hey, a nice note can go a long way!)
  2. If that doesn't work, find out who the online service provider (OSP) of the website is. This may take some digging. Look for words like 'Powered by'.
  3. Go to the OSP's website, and see if they have any information on their site about how to report alleged copyright infringement. If they do, follow their instructions.
  4. If the OSP's website does not have any information, try using this website to see if the OSP has decided to take part in the DMCA. You can search for the agent they have listed:
  5. If the OSP does have an agent listed, you can provide the information the DMCA requires, and mail notice to the agent.
  6. Basic information the DMCA requires:
  • The name, address, and electronic signature of the complaining party [512(c)(3)(A)(i)]. 
  • The infringing materials and their Internet location [512(c)(3)(A)(ii-iii)], or if the OSP is an "information location tool" such as a search engine, the reference or link to the infringing materials [512(d)(3)]. 
  • Sufficient information to identify the copyrighted works [512(c)(3)(A)(iv)].
  • A statement by the owner that it has a good faith belief that there is no legal basis for the use of the materials complained of [512(c)(3)(A)(v)].
  • A statement of the accuracy of the notice and, under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on the behalf of the owner [512(c)(3)(A)(vi)].

Note that making willy nilly claims of copyright infringment is not a good idea. You're opening yourself up to liability for damages, including costs and attorneys' fees. You must consider copyright defenses, limitations or exceptions before you send notice -- so think long and hard about this (did you sign a model release? did you say it was ok for your work to be used, or sign an agreement, and just don't remember doing so? Unfortunately, simply changing your mind doesn't necessarily provide you with any protection). These are just some of the things you should be considering. If you are not sure about these things or have questions, we suggest you contact an attorney prior to filing a notice with the OSP.

If you'd like more information about OPP's policies, you can view them here:

To find out more about the DMCA in general:

To responsible posting, everyone!

Protecting your Work : Shared (HTML) vs. Protected (Flash)

Protecting your work is important, but before you rush to set all of your Image Settings as Protected (Flash), take a moment to consider the pros and cons of both settings.

First, a little background as to your setting choices:

Protected (Flash) displays your images inside of a Flash “movie” that people can't download as easily as HTML.

Shared (HTML) is the most common way to display images online and means images on your site can be downloaded by people, which seems like a bad thing, until you think about all the potential good that can come from this.

Although using the Shared (HTML) setting does allow people to right-click download your images, and people could then theoretically print them out -- at their size and quality, there is little risk that a print out of your images could be sold.

As you decide which setting to use, please note that no method is foolproof! Remember that the internet is inherently a public arena. For example, regardless of the choice you make, nothing can prevent your visitor from screen capturing your images while viewing your site on their computer.

By using the Shared (HTML) setting, you are:

  • Allowing your site to be viewable on mobile devices (Virtual Business Card!)
  • Increasing the chances of your Images being indexed by Google Images
  • Allowing the images on your site to upload more quickly and smoothly
  • Eliminating the possibility of anyone having trouble viewing your images due to outdated components in their browser

Concerned about your larger, Zoom Images being misappropriated if you set them to Shared (HTML)? You can still use our Watermark Feature, to try to ensure that you get credit for your work.

All of the benefits of using the Shared (HTML) setting outweigh the cons, in our humble opinion. It will also assist with the Search Engine Optimization of your site -- a topic that is so hugely important and complex that we're dedicating two blog posts to it. Until next time!