One of the more common questions I get regarding DMCA notices is “Which hosts handle them the best?”
While I’m going to do a specific list later, today I wanted to look more at the general trends I’ve noticed over the years, including thousands of DMCA notices, and some general ideas of what you can expect when filing notices of your own.
Also, these tips may be useful for sites that may be afraid of getting a false DMCA notices or are setting up businesses where they would be in a position to receive notices but are worried about filers going over their heads.
So which kinds of hosts handle DMCA notices the best and how should you approach the different kinds of hosts? Here are a few pointers on what to do and suggestions about what to expect.
International hosts are, for lack of better word, erratic with their compliance. The reason is that every nation has a different implementation of the notice-and-takedown system (if they have one at all) and I’ve seen foreign hosts do everything from disable an entire domain due to one minor infringement to completely ignore all notices.
The problem is that, while the DMCA notice structure has become the de facto standard for copyright notices in almost all countries, how they respond depends on the exact nation you’re sending the notice to and how responsive the specific host is.
In short, when you send your notice to a host outside of the U.S., it’s always something of a gamble and you may want to do a quick Google search before sending to find out what others are saying. You may well learn something that can save you a lot of headache down the road.
Free Hosts/Social Networking/Forums
Free hosts, and by that I mean any hosting situation where the person did not pay for the right to publish their content, typically don’t put up much of a fight. This doesn’t mean that they disobey the law or don’t take steps to protect their users, as with WordPress.com and Blogspot for example, but that they also have no motivation to needlessly defend infringers. With a proper DMCA notice, free hosts almost always remove the content quickly and efficiently.
The only exceptions with this seems to be communities and sites created for the purpose of copyright infringement and smaller community sites that often don’t see a lot of or know how to deal with copyright notices. In both cases, you can often seek help from their host though that sometimes leads to bigger problems.
Large shared and budget hosts, such as GoDaddy, Hostgator, Bluehost, etc. all receive a VERY large volume of DMCA notices and, as such, they have a fairly rigid but straightforward process for dealing with them as they come in.
The problem is that shared hosts have so many customers and often times receive so many notices that the process can be a bit backlogged. Also, don’t expect the host to go out of their way to help you as the process is pretty much on autopilot.
As far as how they respond. Different hosts have slightly different policies. Some will suspend the account pending resolution (GoDaddy often does this) while most will allow the client 48 hours to remove the content and, if they don’t, invite you to follow up and have the account suspended.
This makes monitoring of compliance very important in these cases and follow-up crucial.
Cloud, CDN and distributed hosting platforms are fairly new and involve the content in question being spread across many different servers, usually across the globe. While these hosts do usually operate out of the U.S. and do comply with DMCA notices, there are serious technical challenges to removing infirnging material spread out this way.
As a result, these hosts often times do what they can to try and prevent DMCA notices from being filed. For example, Amazon Web Services traditionally required a DMCA Notice be mailed to them, not even accepting fax (a policy that has thankfully been changed) and other cloud services, including Cloudflare, won’t remove the content but will give you the information to have it removed at the original host, which will eventually cause it to be purged on their end.
The technical challenges that surround removing content from a cloud host has makes this particular type of host one of the tougher ones to work with but, usually with persistence, a good result can be achieved.
Finally, there’s the class of hosting that covers everything from Virtual Private Server (VPS) on up to large rack providers. These hosts tend to be for higher-paying clients that need more power out of their hosting (Note: Plagiarism Today is on a VPS at Servint).
While these companies can get very large, they typically serve a much smaller number of clients per machine than other hosting types and those clients pay a good deal more.
These hosts, save for very large providers, typically see very few DMCA notices and the relationship between them and their clients is more complicated. Not only is there more money involved, often times including large contracts with burdens on the host, but many of these companies sublet their servers to other hosts, meaning their direct client might not be the one who posted the content or controls the site it is on.
With all of this at play, don’t expect a formal or rigid DMCA process and don’t expect a super-fast response. These hosts can’t simply shut down the account and often have to forward the notice through two or three layers. This is part of why it’s crucial to send the notice to the closest person responsible you can.
While I find that these hosts are responsible and do handle situations the best they can, I even have some that have asked I call on the phone about concerns before sending over a notice, their position makes quick resolution difficult.
In general, patience and cooperation will yield the best results.
So which host type is “best” at handling DMCA notices? It’s a difficult question without an easy answer, in part because it’s a matter of perspective. If your site is the subject of a false DMCA notice, you’ll probably want a host that protects its customers where someone trying to get a spam blog removed will want a host that is more quick to respond.
The best hosts find a balance and can work quickly to deal with infringements without throwing their customers under the bus. It’s a difficult balancing act but many do it effectively.
After all, a good DMCA policy isn’t just good for copyright holders, but for legitimate customers who don’t want to share server space with spammers and infringing sites. A good DMCA policy helps build a good virtual neighborhood and that makes the Web a better place for everyone.