If you operate a blog, chat room, or interactive website, you must be familiar with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). The law has two basic functions. First, it protects the rights of copyright owners by providing a mechanism without directly prosecuting the infringer! The DMCA allows copyright owners to notify service providers and require them to remove infringing content included in media hosted by that provider. This allows the copyright owner to try to stop the infringement, instead of making demands and dealing directly with the actual infringer. This greatly increases the ability to stop the breach, as the service provider may be required to take action under the DMCA.

However, the law’s second function is for “service providers” (ie Internet service providers, email providers, search engines, online auction sites, hosting providers, chat rooms, interactive sites, news providers, etc.) to provide liability immunity for copyright infringement! As I explain below, if you fall under the definition of a service provider, you are generally exempt from liability for copyright infringement by website users. However, there are limitations on service provider liability, which is another purpose of the DMCA.