• Hey! Someone's Posted My [insert your copyrighted work here] on Their Website!
  • May 2, 2003 | Author: Jessica D. Manivasager
  • Law Firm: Fredrikson & Byron, P.A. - Minneapolis Office
  • If you own a copyrighted work, such as a book, picture, design, movie, or song, others could be copying and posting it on the Internet without your permission. A scanner (or a right-click with a mouse and "save target as...," if your work is already on the Internet) can quickly convert your work into someone else's file, to be posted on someone else's web site. If you did not authorize the copying and posting of your work on the web site, you most likely have a cause of action for copyright infringement against whomever owns the site.

    Under the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the "DMCA"), you can do something about that web site quickly and inexpensively, without having to go to court. Under the DMCA, the owner of a copyrighted work can notify the internet service provider ("ISP"), that controls the network on which the materials that infringe on the copyrighted work reside, of the copyright infringement. Once the ISP has been notified, the ISP must then remove or disable the web site. The copyright owner may take action under the DMCA even if the owner has not registered their copyright with the Copyright Office.

    Why would an ISP comply with a request by a copyright owner to disable or remove a web site, solely upon the copyright owner's claim of infringement? ISPs, if they comply with the copyright owner's request, are generally granted immunity from liability for copyright infringement (for storing infringing material on a network that is controlled or operated by the ISP), and from liability vis-a-vis the web site's subscriber, for disabling or removing the web site if, in a later legal action, the material is not found to be infringing.

    The copyright owner must give notification that complies with the provisions of the DMCA to the designated agent of the ISP. Once notice is given, the ISP must act to disable or remove the web page from the Internet. The ISP also must notify the web site's subscriber that the ISP has removed or disabled access to the material on the web site.

    Although removing or disabling the material will keep most blatant copyright infringers at bay, there is a process under the DMCA by which the web site's subscriber may contest the removing or disabling of the material on their web site, by providing "counter notification" to the ISP's designated agent. The counter notification, like the initial notice, must be given pursuant to the DMCA's provisions. If the ISP receives an acceptable counter notice from the web site's subscriber, the ISP must give a copy of the counter notice to the copyright owner. The ISP will replace the removed or disabled material within 10 to 14 business days following receipt of the counter notice unless it first receives a notice from the copyright owner that an action seeking a court order to restrain the web site's subscriber from engaging in infringing activity has been filed.

    If you are the copyright owner of works that could be infringed upon on the Internet, it may be worth doing a little sleuthing to see if any one has copied and posted your works on their web sites. Try using an Internet search engine such as Google (www.google.com) or Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) and search using the name or a description of your work to see if your work has been copied and posted.