Avoiding the DMCA

The DMCA isn’t just a bad law for Americans, it’s a bad law for the rest of the world as well. Though it provides tools for handling plagiarism, especially with its notice and takedown provision, it’s ruined the atmosphere of cooperation that once existed between hosts and copyright holders and served as a platform for all kinds of copyright abuses.

However, one of the worst elements of the DMCA is that it doesn’t just affect those who are citizens of the United States. It has the potential to ruin free expression for pretty much anyone in the world.

In order to completely avoid the DMCA, you first must not be an American citizen. If you are, you’re automatically bound by the entire law and there’s not much you can do.

If you’re not an American citizen, and you want to post to the Web without fear of the DMCA, then you must make sure that the company you post with isn’t an American company. If you use a free site, such as a blog network or free Web host, you’re very likely dealing with an American company. Some simple research can find out for certain though, usually an address is available on the “about” page of their Web site.

Then you have to make sure the company you’re working with is not hosted by an American company. Since very few sites actually operate their own servers with their own connection, odds are that the company you’re dealing with a third party host and, even if the company you signed on with is in another country, it’s possible that the computers actually housing your content are sitting in a United States server farm.

After that, you must make sure that your host’s host isn’t an American company. Since the vast majority of Web hosts are themselves resellers of another company’s servers, it’s once again possible to deal with two international companies only to find your content is still originating from the United States and, thus, vulnerable to DMCA attacks.

Finally, you must make sure that you never list your site in Google, MSN, Yahoo or any of the major search engines as they are all owned and operated by American companies and can be required to remove you if they receive proper notification. Though it doesn’t get the work removed from the Web or silence anything, it can cut off the site’s main traffic source, making the speech completely unheard and entirely moot.

What this means is that, if you’re a copyright holder and dealing with a plagiarism incident, you can wield the DMCA in several “creative” ways to rectify the situation. Even incidents that appear to be completely international can turn out to be under the jurisdiction of at least some element of the DMCA.

When you consider that you don’t have to be an American citizen to enact the DMCA, it’s possible for a person in England to use it to shut down an Australian site simply because, at some point, the Australian site crossed into the United States and fell under its jurisdiction. It only takes one link to land in the U.S. to break the entire chain.

To those who hate the DMCA, this is terrible news because it’s a law that’s almost impossible to avoid. With the term “service provider” being so broad and so much of the world’s Internet traffic passing through the U.S., it’s almost impossible to post to the Internet and not fall underneath some element of the DMCA’s jurisdiction.

Then again, with so many other countries passing legislation similar to the DMCA, it could work out where country of origin doesn’t matter at all. If we all use the same bad laws, everyone loses equally.

[tags]Plagiarism, DMCA, Copyright Law, Copyright[/tags]

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