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What's a DMCA request?

I'm sure that we have all come across a tweet, link, or perhaps a line in a TOS somewhere that says something about how to file a "DMCA Takedown Request," or DMCA Removal Contact Information," or something along those lines. If you're anything like me, you understand what those links mean in the broader sense; as in: Click here to have this content removed because it belongs to you and someone is using it without permission. But, also like me, you've never been sure what the DMCA part is. Let's take a look!

The DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28th, 1998. If you want to see the actual act itself, click on the link above. It's 18 pages of government jargon with references to legislation all over the place, but it's still great to read and know if you are a freelancer. For instance, did you know that the DMCA is not only an act here in the United States of America, but it also combines two World Intellectual Property Organization treaties? Wild!


After reading through the act itself, there is one part in particular that is really important to the Anthro community so that's what I'm going to focus on in this article. I am still technically on hiatus from writing and taking a break from my 30 Hour OSHA course to write this article. On top of job hunting, I'm a little on the tired side. xD


The DMCA is broken down into five different parts, or titles, as they are often called in the legal world, and the one that we are going to focus on is Title II: The Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act. At first glance you might think that this whole section was built around protecting copyright owners, but it's actually the other way around! The DMCA was published in 1998, which for those of you who were alive in that era will remember, was the tail end of one of the biggest economic booms in the United States. Businesses all over needed new protections from something called "The Internet," and that's where the Digital Millennium Copyright Act comes into play.

Title II, in summary, "creates limitations on the liability of online service providers for copyright infringement when engaging in certain types of activities." So, in short, the entire purpose of this title is to limit or eliminate your ability to get money from an "online service" because someone posted your copyrighted material somewhere on "the internet."


If you take the time to read through Title II itself, you will see that there are a ton of definitions about what is a "service provider" and rules about "system caching;" while this might be important so some individuals out there, where it really gets important is paragraph 16, which reads in it's entirety:


"The statute also establishes procedures for proper notification, and rules as to its effect. (Section 512(c)(3)). Under the notice and takedown procedure, a copyright owner submits a notification under penalty of perjury, including a list of specified elements, to the service provider’s designated agent. Failure to comply substantially with the statutory requirements means that the notification will not be considered in determining the requisite level of knowledge by the service provider. If, upon receiving a proper notification, the service provider promptly removes or blocks access to the material identified in the notification, the provider is exempt from monetary liability. In addition, the provider is protected from any liability to any person for claims based on its having taken down the material. (Section 512(g)(1))."


As you can see, what makes the DMCA super important isn't the fact that it protects your copyright, because it doesn't, but it actually protects websites from you. That's right! In the event that a business or website does not institute a DMCA takedown process, and honor verified requests, it can suffer penalties from the copyright office. If we take a look at the next paragraph, there is a specific example of how websites must proceed in order to qualify for liability protection:


"In order to qualify for the protection against liability for taking down material, the service provider must promptly notify the subscriber that it has removed or disabled access to the material."


So there you have it! I always thought the DMCA was written to protect copyright owners online, but it's actually kinda backwards. Kinda funny to think that it's written to prevent copyright owners from suing the pants off of internet service providers, but I get it. Art and digital goods are stolen all the time, and getting them taken down is always a pain. But, at least there is a process for it that websites must use. I also had no idea this was written in 1998. I was around back then! I remember Y2K! It was a weird time, now that I stop and think about it.


Thankfully though, I'm a different species now.


And also way cooler :D