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:
- 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!)
- 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'.
- 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.
- 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: http://www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/list/a_agents.html
- If the OSP does have an agent listed, you can provide the information the DMCA requires, and mail notice to the agent.
- 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!