Hosts like the protections that the DMCA safe harbor provisions afford them. They like that they can’t be held liable for infringement by their users and they don’t have to do anything to patrol their servers for infringement as this strips them of both a huge liability and a tremendous technical burden.
However, hosts don’t like getting DMCA takedown notices. Not only does it require some manpower to process and and execute, but customers who have them filed against them often get upset and blame the host unjustly.
Hosts can deal with this problem one of two ways. The first is by streamlining the DMCA process and better educating their customers/clients about copyright complaints, the other is trying to frustrate and limit the number of people who file notices.
Though many hosts take the first approach, often in a bid to discourage their servers from being used for infringing activities, others have taken the alternative approach. While this might be a good thing in cases where it stops someone from filing a false DMCA notices, in cases where there are serious infringements taking place, this can be very frustrating.
As someone who has worked with hundreds of hosts filing thousands of DMCA notices, here are just some of the tricks I’ve seen and, more importantly, how I’ve overcome them.
1. Fax or Mail Only
The DMCA is very clear that an electronic signature is all that’s required to sign the notice and the U.S. Copyright Office makes sure that every host that registers their agent with them has an email address. Yet, when trying to find a DMCA contact on a host’s site, many only list the mailing and/or fax address, requiring that you send it in that way.
How to Overcome It: First, you may be able to find an email address on the U.S. Copyright Office site. If you can’t, you can actually send a fax for free if you create the notice in a Word file. It’s an extra step, but not a particularly painful one.
2. Hiding the Contact Info
Most hosts will place the DMCA info either in a special “legal” section, in the terms of service itself or on a similar page of their site. Some, however, work hard to bury this information, often either putting it on pages you don’t expect or making it a link off of a page that is hard to spot.
How to Overcome It: First, use your browser’s find feature and look for the word “copyright”, you’ll likely find that you can locate the information that way. Failing that, Google for the host’s name and either “DMCA” or “copyright” as that will often turn up the results. If that fails, go to the link above for the USCO site and see if they have a filing there.
3. Bounced Emails
Often times, either out of malice or simple mistake, the email addresses that hosts set up to receive DMCA notices stop working. This can be especially annoying if you’ve had to spend a lot of time finding the aforementioned email and sending off the notice.
How to Overcome It: As with other things on the list, check the USCO filing for a different address or look again on the site if you got the email from there. If that fails, send the notice to their abuse team, usually just [email protected], and make a mention that the email address for such notices is not working. Usually, if you do that, such notices are passed along and accepted
4. Repeat the Notice
A lot of hosts, especially those who who demand fax or mail filing, may come back and request another version of the notice, usually one that’s in clear text. While this is understandable, especially for long notices, it can be easily avoided by either having a DMCA form, as Google is doing now, or accepting emailed notices. However, several times I’ve gotten requests for a cleartext version of a DMCA notice I had already emailed, meaning I essentially had to repeat the exact same notice.
How to Overcome It: Be aware that this happens and is increasing. Make sure the email you provide on your notice is one that you check regularly and doesn’t have too much spam protection on it. As long as you have copies of everything you do, complying with these requests is usually a lot easier than battilng them.
5. The No Follow Up
A lot of hosts, after sending a DMCA notice, will pass it along to their customer and give them a certain number of days to respond and remove the work themselves. This, to me, is a fair policy that prevents hosts from having to close whole accounts over a minor infringement. However, a lot of hosts either don’t or forget to check up on the situation after time has expired. Leaving the work online well past when it should have come down.
How to Overcome It: Don’t trust hosts to follow up on your notices, do that yourself. If you must, create a spreadsheet and check to make sure that every case is handled in order.
Hosts, sometimes accidentally and sometimes intentionally, put up blocks that can prevent you from sending in a proper DMCA notice. Knowing what those blocks are and how to get around them is crucial if you’re going to be sending them out in any number.
All in all, most of the common blocks aren’t that difficult to get around, though they can be very frustrating to inexperienced filers. As such, it’s best to learn the lessons on how to deal with them before you start searching rather than scrambling to find it later.
A little knowledge can save you a lot of time and help you be much more effective with your work.