The Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 Explained
Many customers and visitors to our customer’s sites have questions about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. To that end we have prepared this quick guide to help answer some of these questions. This guide doesn’t take the place of or supplement our current contracts and policy documents. We simply want to provide a convenient place to answer some of the questions we have received and speak about the importance of how to comply with this law. You should always contact a qualified professional if you have any legal questions about the DMCA or copyright issues.
The DMCA limits a web host’s, like Hedgehog Hosting, liability for vicarious and contributory copyright infringement when their users infringe a third party’s copyright. The penalties for knowingly engaging in vicarious copyright infringement can be up to three times the damages caused by the infringement. However, if a web host follows the procedures set forth in the DMCA, they are not liable for their customer’s copyright infringement. This is referred to as “Safe Harbor.” Web hosts are then also not responsible for actions they take based on notifications they receive that are in compliance with the DMCA. Accordingly, it is in our best business interests to follow the procedures of the DMCA to the extent of the law.
The web hosts, the entities providing notice of copyright infringement, and the targets of those notices are required to meet very strict criteria set out in the DMCA. These criteria are not negotiable, and cannot be varied by the participants in the process. What this means is that Hedgehog Hosting, or any other web host, cannot take into account any traditional defenses to copyright infringement like “fair use” or “public domain.” Nor can we vary the criteria required of DMCA notices or responses. While we value the reasons why it should vary its procedures, the DMCA does not provide web hosts the flexibility to do so.
Hedeghog Hosting recognizes that the DMCA is not a perfect law and frequently we receive comments pointing out how the DMCA may have been used for purposes possibly not intended by Congress. To the extent possible, and given our corporate and legal obligations, we attempt to mitigate these uses for our customers. The fact of the matter is that the DMCA provides very little room for any web host, including Hedgehog, to take these actions. For this reason, we encourage those who feel that the DMCA has been used for inappropriate purposes to contact their legislators and let them know how their business has been affected.
Hedgehog Hosting particpates in regular meetings with our elected officials to stress the importance of making sure our existing laws are keeping up the ever-changing technology landscape. We will continue to stress the rights of our clients while making sure that Copyright holders are not infrindged upon.