DreamHost Talks DMCA

DreamHost, one of the largest Web hosting services, posted an entry to their blog yesterday discussing their handling of DMCA notices, in particular false ones.

The article was posted in the wake of the settlement of the Michael Crook case and references back to it multiple times. According to the entry, DreamHost received several of the now-famous Crook DMCA notices. After initially removing at least one, the DreamHost abuse team realized what was going on and began to reinstate removed images and ignore Crook’s further notices.

This spawned a series of threats from Crook against DreamHost, some legal in nature, others more personal. One, for example, included the following statement:

Also..just out of curiosity….how would your vendors and customers like an “anonymous” Tip that your company was founded and is run by child molestors [sic]?

Just wondering is all.

Though all of the DMCA issues were resolved in the wake of the settlement, the post also contains a rare, but very valuable, look at how an abuse department such as DreamHost handles DMCA matters.

Behind the Curtain

Hosts, for legal reasons, rarely talk about their DMCA policies. Even I, who has filed over 300 notices and forged good relationships with many abuse teams, hear very little about what happens to a notice after it is sent.

The DreamHost post is one of the first times a major host has publicly and frankly talked about their DMCA policies. From it, there are several pieces of very interesting information to be gleaned including the following:

  1. DreamHost sympathizes with copyright holders.
  2. DreamHost regularly shuts down accounts that are clearly infringing on copyright, even without a notice.
  3. They receive many incomplete DMCA notices, even for cases where the complainer has a legitimate reason for filing one.
  4. DreamHost, all in all, seems to like the DMCA, though they do have several gripes with it.
  5. The biggest such gripe, in their mind, seems to be the lack of formal penalties for filing a false notice.
  6. If you file a notice that is clearly false, they will tell you to leave them alone, even if the notice is complete (as they did with Crook).

On paper, it seems as if DreamHost has one of the best balanced DMCA and copyright policies out there. This is very rare for such a large host, especially one that specializes in large-quantity, low-cost hosting. They’ve clearly thought this through and strike a great balance between protecting copyright holders rights and the free speech rights of their users.

My personal experience, however, does not tell me how many hosts share this approach, especially with false DMCA notices. However, my experiences can add a few other points to what DreamHost said.

My Personal Experience

DreamHost’s entry seems to largely coincide with what I’ve learned from other hosts that I’ve worked with. However, I would add a few points to it:

  1. Hosts seem to really hate services that send automatic DMCA notices such as BayTSP.
  2. Many hosts, if not most, do not handle DMCA notices with their abuse department, but rather turn that over to their legal team.
  3. Though hosts do respond quickly to DMCA complaints and give them a high priority, there are higher ones, spam being a good example.
  4. Hosts try to handle DMCA complaints the fastest and cheapest way possible, usually by just disabling the account.
  5. Larger hosts tend to have better organized DMCA procedures but smaller hosts are usually faster to act, if they act at all that is.

All of these points are, of course, generalizations and won’t apply to absolutely every single host out there. With literally thousands of Web hosts out there and each with their own DMCA policies, it is very difficult to take knowledge about one host, or even a few hosts, and apply it to all.

Still, the sampling seems to be large enough and the results consistent enough to get an idea of where at least a good number of Web hosts stand.


Though I, nor anyone else, can say for certain that most hosts are like DreamHost in its handling of the DMCA, it would certainly seem that they have the best possible approach.

They have a brave and intelligent approach that doesn’t shy away from closing down accounts that infringe or telling DMCA abusers to go away. They neither hide behind the law nor ignore it. It sounds as if it is a perfect balance.

Personally, I have not needed to send a DMCA notice to DreamHost. Though the likelihood of that grows steadily as paid hosting becomes cheaper and plagiarists turn to it more, I can not, at this time, comment on my experience with them or add them to my Host Report.

But regardless of how it works in practice, in theory they have a nearly-ideal policy and one that other hosts, especially larger ones, should aspire to.

If other hosts were to follow the DreamHost example, hosts would not be the biggest problem with the DMCA and the likelihood of the law being used for evil would be greatly reduced.

That, in turn, would make everyone happier and make the Web a better place all around.

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