1. What is the DMCA ?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a US law passed in 1998 to combat internet piracy by criminalizing the unauthorized use of copyrighted material.

Thanks to the DMCA, any author can ask for the removal of unauthorized content infringing their rights.

Although it is a US law, the DMCA actually applies to everyone – for example, YouTube’s servers are in the US and content posted there must comply with US regulations. A majority of hosts, even in a country that does not directly apply the DMCA, are now used to remove content upon the receipt of a DMCA form, and the list of countries that do not apply it is now insignificantly small (fewer than a dozen countries worldwide by 2021).

2. Why is it so controversial ?

  • Penalties are often viewed as disproportionate, personal use is prohibited, and even attempted piracy is punished.
  • It is depicted as an enemy of the “open” web – as it was a tool against free speech on the internet.
  • It is an outdated law – more than 20 years old – and not necessarily adapted to today’s Web . Who owns a meme? Should the DMCA be applied to social networks, and if so, how? Streamers, in particular, have often been very critical of this law, as they used to play music during their live gaming sessions – music they had not acquired the rights to.
  •  It sometimes leads to absurd situations. For instance, at BlizzCon 2020 – an event entirely online due to the pandemic – the band Metallica gave an unannounced concert. But during the live session on Twitch, as we could watch the playing, the music in the background was not the band’s music at all; Twitch had decided that broadcasting Metallica’s music was against their DMCA rules. Yet it was an official performance of the band on an authorized channel … Since then, the videos of this strange performance have been removed from the web but this situation is a perfect illustration of the flaws of this law.

3. DMCA: a tool for content creators

These criticisms pale in comparison to a very simple fact: no one wants to see their work stolen – so that others can gain an audience and revenue from it. No one has the right to use your content without your permission – be it text, music, photos, video or software. People who are explicitly in favor of free sharing can use many tools, such as open-source or Creative Commons copyleft licenses.

Consent is everything - in real life and on the Web.

Practices are changing, and streamers are now careful to use only royalty-free content, which also allows artists releasing royalty-free music to be showcased in ways they may never have imagined. Twitch has actually published a detailed FAQ on DMCA compliance on their platform, with a set of tools available to content creators.

4. How can I protect my rights with the DMCA?

You just have to fill in a DMCA form. 

Your content does not need to be registered (but you will be asked for proof of ownership of the reported content). You will be asked to provide a certain amount of information for the application to be considered:

  •  A physical or electronic signature
  •  The location and identification of the material that infringes your copyright.
  •  Your personal details (address, telephone number, etc.)
  • A statement that you are acting in good faith and that all of the above information is accurate – under penalty of perjury.

You can also request a removal of links from search engines directing to the infringing content.

5. How complicated is it ?

The application itself is quite straightforward. However, you should be aware that you will be disclosing a quantity of personal information (address, phone number) and that you will be legally bound – if you make any false claims, you may be prosecuted.
Furthermore, you can only file a DMCA claim if you have identified content that belongs to you online – so it requires a systematic search to check that illegal copies of your content actually exist online.

PDN is an expert in antipiracy and has been one for more than a decade. Contact one of our experts for more information, our team will be happy to help you and to guide you though the whole process.

Stay tuned for our next article, and find out how to limit piracy for your products: preventive methods, or active methods, which one is more effective?