How brands & companies can take down infringing material on the internet - DMCA
Your brand has worked hard to create unique and personal material to enhance products or services, whether it be amazing descriptions or articles on its websites or beautiful photography, in hopes to profit from these effort. Now imagine, after all of that hard work, someone with a computer has taken your photo or text, without your permission, have posted it on their website, and are making money from it.
Pretty unfair, right? Well, the U.S. Copyright Act agrees.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, also known as the DMCA, is a powerful tool for brands, companies, and designers to enforce and monitor their copyrights online. I previously discussed copyrights here, but copyright protection protects literary and visual work (such as writings, videos, and pictures). When those protected works are copied, altered, and posted (or performed) without the copyright owners permission, that may constitute copyright infringement.
Today, anyone can buy a domain and use a website anywhere in the world. As a result of the ease of copy & paste, that means individuals' and brands' copyrights are also easily taken. If used in a commercial manner online, then there is even more of an argument to want to take down that infringing content as the copyright owner, since someone else is making money off of your rights.
Here's how it works: Internet Service Providers ("ISP") can be large or small providers of websites and domains. Anyone who purchases a website is essentially provided access to the internet through their particular ISP. Think of it as the website's "boss." The ISP may be liable for any behavior that occurs on that individual website - such as copyright infringement or criminal activity. In the world today where there are millions of websites and any one ISP may have control over hundreds of thousands of websites, the DMCA was born as a fair way to alert ISP of potential copyright infringement occurring on one of its hosted websites. For example, if you wanted to know the ISP for any website, simply go to https://whois.icann.org/en and enter the website address. You should see something like this:
For simplicity, I entered www.loesquire.com so you can see who the ISP of my domain is.
According to ICANN, the ISP is Tucows, and provides a website. Once you head to this website, you see that this ISP has a section where you can "report abuse," and gives you the ability to submit a claim, where you can enter the details of a possible copyright infringement occurring.
ISP's, if they wish to be able to avoid liability for the actions of its website hosts, must follow DMCA takedown provisions. To do so, the ISP's must designate an agent to receive these complaints filed on its website. In addition, if a complaint is submitted, the ISP must also immediately remove the potentially infringing material, until it can be determined whether the content is or is not infringing. Failure to follow these steps can result in an ISP's liability of copyright infringement, including potentially high monetary rewards in some instances.
If you're wondering how so many blogs and websites have beautiful photos commonly displayed, you should consider 1. whether the use of the photo constitutes commercial use (because otherwise it may not be copyright infringement at all!) and 2. you might want to think about whether it is a stock photo. Stock photos, depending on where you get them, can be obtained for free or else must be given attribution to the owner. One great source I like to use is www.pexels.com.