The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is a United States copyright law focused on digital mediums that helps content owners get their stolen content removed in a fast and efficient manner. This extends to places such as Internet Service Providers (ISP), web hosting providers, and search engines.
A DMCA takedown notice applies to where the content is physically hosted. So people outside the US can still file DMCA complaints. For content hosted outside of the US, many hosting providers will still honor DMCA complaints, however, legally they are not obliged to comply.
A DMCA Takedown does not require the content to be copyrighted in order to process the takedown or for the request to have the content taken down acted upon by the website owner or ISP.
Here are some examples of digital content that this applies to:
- Text (TXT, RTF, DOC, DOCx, PDF, PPT, etc.)
- Images (BMP, EPS, SVG, JPG, JPEG, GIF, WEBP PNG, PSD, RAW, TIFF, etc. This includes on social media)
- Video (MPG, AVI, RM, MOV, Quicktime, Windows Media Player, RealPlayer)
- Music (AIF, AU, MP3, MP4, MID, WAV, etc. )
Over the last decade, it has become very important for bloggers, webmasters, and hosts to understand how the DMCA procedure works so that everyone can keep their content protected; as well as knowing how to deal with complaints or notices when they arrive. According to Google’s transparency report, requests to remove content due to copyright have been increasing rapidly.
Number of DMCA complaints filed
DMCA Takedown Notice
As a website or content owner, there are generally two different scenarios you might encounter when it comes to DMCA takedowns. The first is a DMCA takedown notice against you, and the second is the process of creating a DMCA takedown notice to get your copyrighted content on another website taken down.
How to Handle a DMCA Takedown Notice Against You
The first thing you should know is how to deal with a DMCA takedown notice when it is filed against you. Generally, when your ISP or web hosting provider receives a DMCA complaint they will demand the removal of the content immediately, or do it for you. Your provider might not necessarily even check into whether or not your content is actually infringing. They are legally obligated to take this content down and will do so in a fast and efficient manner.
If you believe that you received a complaint in error, or that you do in fact own the content, then you can submit a DMCA counter-notice. Under section 512(f) of the DMCA, any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification may be subject to liability. So be very careful when you file a DMCA counter-notice, if you are not sure whether or not you own the content then you should probably seek legal advice.
Your counter-notice needs to contain the following information:
- Physical or electronic signature
- Name, address, and phone number
- Identification of the material and its location before it was removed (URL)
- A statement that the material was removed by mistake or misidentification (remember you are liable)
- Consent to the jurisdiction of a federal court in the district where you live or where your service provider is located
- Consent to accept service of process from the party who submitted the takedown notice
How to Create a DMCA Takedown Notice
The other side of the DMCA process is when you find that someone else has stolen your content. Here are the steps you can take to ensure it gets taken down.
1. Find The Person
The very first thing you have to do is find the person’s web host so that you know where to file the DMCA complaint. An easy way to do this is to lookup the IP address of the website. You can either ping it or use a free online tool like Domain Tools. In this example below, we are using a site that is hosted on Kinsta on Google Cloud Platform. You can see Domain Tools easily shows us the IP address of the domain we looked up.
Find IP address for DMCA takedown notice
You can then take the IP address and look it up at ARIN Whois Service. They have a good database of records and comments about which IPs are owned by which companies. You can see in this example once we looked up the IP address, it immediately shows us that it is on a netblock used by Google Cloud customers and the email address and web page for abuse complaints.
Google Cloud platform abuse example
DMCA also has a great free Whois lookup that generates network information. You are limited to 5 free lookups per month. Another alternative you can try if the above doesn’t render any good results is the free Who is Hosting This tool from HostAdvice.
Who is hosting this?
Note: If they are running behind a CDN or proxy such as CloudFlare this makes it a lot harder as they will show as the owner of the IP address. In that scenario, you might have more luck reaching out to the individual site owner first. However, Cloudflare does have a DMCA complaint form.
2. Where to Submit the DMCA Takedown Complaint
Now that you know where the person’s content is hosted you must submit the complaint. Most providers have easy ways to access them. Look on their contact pages, or in the footer for anything that says “complaints” or “abuse.” Here are a couple links to some common providers.
If you can’t find an online form then you must contact a DMCA agent directly. This is usually a longer drawn out process. Contacting the web host or ISP provider directly is usually the fastest way. You can also pay a professional team to handle the DMCA takedown for you.
3. What to Include in the DMCA Takedown Complaint
You must include the following information to ensure your takedown complaint is handled properly. You can also use this free DMCA notice generator.
- Physical or electronic signature
- The location and identification of the material you are claiming is infringing (this could be URLs, etc)
- Your contact information, address, phone number, mailing address, etc
- Statement of good faith that the use of the material is not authorized by the copyright owner or you
- Statement that everything is accurate (again, remember you are liable under penalty of perjury)
Related tutorial: How to Protect Images On Your Site (+ What To Do After Theft)