What Does DMCA Mean and Does DMCA Work?

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a US copyright law that was enacted in 1998. It serves to protect one's intellectual property by making it unlawful to share or reproduce copyrighted content, all the while limiting the responsibility of intermediaries and platforms that host such content, in other words, online service providers.

DMCA Takedown Process

Thanks to the DMCA, a copyright owner who sees their original content used without their permission can follow a fairly straightforward process to have that content taken down. This is what we call the DMCA takedown process.

Most major online service providers have a section of their websites dedicated to the DMCA with the contact details of their designated agent as well as detailed instructions on how to submit a takedown notice. In most cases, the allegedly infringing content will be removed by the service provider in just a few hours.

Create a DMCA takedown request

Note that, as a copyright holder, you must first make sure that you have a basis to claim copyright infringement and that the usage does not fall under the doctrine of fair use.

From an online service provider point of view, you will want to act expeditiously and remove the content following receipt of a takedown notice, as this is one of the conditions for you to be able to benefit from the DMCA safe harbor provisions.

To learn more about the DMCA takedown process, fair use, and the safe harbor provisions, read our article on the subject here.

Does DMCA Work?

The DMCA process certainly works, as most major online service providers have strong processes in place which see them expeditiously take down content for which they receive an infringement complaint.

However, critics of the DMCA will say that the takedown process is too strict, with the content being removed by service providers without having been properly examined which gives too much power to copyright holders, restricts freedom of expression, and discourages competition.

Indeed, some big copyright holders such as software giants, movie production companies, or music producers, automatically send takedown notices without considering if the usage falls under the doctrine of fair use, which notably covers criticism, for example.

All in all, with the amount of content that is shared every day on the Internet and the number of platforms on which people congregate, the DMCA is an effective, simple solution to protect copyright. Think of it as a compromise between protecting intellectual property and promoting the evolution of the Internet and the inherent freedom that it provides.

DMCA Protection

Remember, if you are an online service provider you should have a DMCA policy in place in order to be able to benefit from the safe harbor provisions under section 512 of the DMCA.

This policy should confirm that you will expeditiously respond to DMCA takedown notices and copyright infringement complaints and explain your processes, as well as explain to your users that, as an online service provider, you have to promptly remove allegedly infringing content when you are made aware of its existence.

You will also want to have a repeat infringer policy to be able to take action and terminate accounts of users that continue to copy or share copyrighted materials without authorization even after receiving multiple notices to that effect.

Click here to create your own attorney-drafted DMCA policy in just a few minutes by using our free generator. This will ensure that your policy contains all the elements required by law for your business to be able to benefit from the safe harbor provisions.