The Internet, including social media sites, has made it possible to produce and publish content with ease, reaching more people than ever with just the click of a button. However, this same ease that allows so many people to view and access content also increases the amount of illegitimate access to protected intellectual property. Computers and the internet make it relatively easy to repost copyrighted material. Copyrighted works of original content may include social media posts, videos, photos, music, computer software, poetry, websites, and novels. While it may be difficult to completely remove all infringing content from every site on the internet, avenues exist through which intellectual property owners may assert their rights and have the infringing content removed. One such avenue for copyright owners is a DMCA takedown notice.
What is a DMCA takedown notice?
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a law passed in 1998 by Congress to, among other things, protect internet service and content providers from copyright infringement liability of their users. Essentially, social media and other content providers, such as YouTube or Facebook will not necessarily be held liable for copyright infringement if their users post infringing content. However, in order to qualify for these benefits, social media platforms must conform to certain requirements including blocking access to infringing content when they are notified by the copyright holder that the site is hosting infringing content.
To do this, social media platforms usually have a “help center” through which they ask users to file complaints. Oftentimes, these help centers are fillable forms that allow the user to enter the requested relevant information without the need of drafting an email or a letter. If the social media platform does not have any type of “help center,” you can send a takedown request directly to the internet service provider.
It is not always a perfect system and each request is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Once the infringement is reported, there is often no other communication from the platform or service provider. Therefore, takedown requests work best for blatant, obvious acts of infringement where the posted content is identical or near-identical to the original copyrighted material. If there is a question as to whether the content is truly infringing a copyright, the site is likely to avoid involvement and may leave the post online.
Steps to submitting a takedown request on social media
A first step you can take to remove your copyrighted material is to reach out directly to the infringing user and ask them to remove the content. Many users do not know specific copyright laws or social media guidelines or they do not understand the harms they are committing. With a little education on the laws and the harms that can occur by failing to abide by these laws, people may consider voluntarily removing the posted content.
If you do not receive a response from the user or you receive a hostile response and the user refuses to remove the content, you may consider filing a copyright takedown notice according to the social media guidelines of the platform. Each platform’s process is slightly different. Perhaps the simplest method of locating copyright reporting tools is to perform an internet search of a site name (i.e. “Twitter”) and “takedown request.” Alternatively, you can find each platform’s “help center,” and navigate to the copyright reporting tool..
Trademark vs. Copyright
While this article focuses on copyright and the DMCA, many social media platforms also provide mechanisms through which companies can protect their trademarks from infringement as well. However, trademark law does not have a counterpart DMCA which makes the requirements murky for internet service and content providers to remove infringing trademarks from their site. In most cases, websites require that the trademark be registered and will only remove content in obvious infringement cases. Amazon also launched a utility patent neutral evaluation process.
Should you pursue or ignore it?
Remember that a takedown request is not anonymous and the social media platform will likely disclose your name or company name to the infringing user. Additionally, some sites like YouTube will publish your name or company name as copyright holder in place of the infringing content. If this is concerning, review each website’s practice before filing a takedown request.
If the unauthorized use includes counterfeiting, piracy, or anything that could be associated with decreased sales, then action should be taken. Additionally, if unauthorized content is posted to accounts with many followers that might be confused by the infringement, you might even consider taking further legal action, especially if the infringement appears willful.
Every situation is unique and, as mentioned above, several factors should be accounted for before acting. The experts at TraskBritt understand the intricacies of the intellectual property laws and can help you protect your content and your brand. For questions regarding takedown requests on social media or any kind of copyright or trademark infringement claims, get in contact with one of the lawyers at TraskBritt today.
Article written by K. Russell Griggs