The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a U.S. law that addresses copyright infringement issues related to online works.

For copyright owners, the law provides the ability to have an allegedly infringing web site removed
from an Internet service provider’s (ISP) network, or to have access to an allegedly infringing website disabled.

Online service providers, such as ISPs are generally exempt from liability from claims of copyright infringement made against them that result from the conduct of their customers. If a service provider qualifies for this “safe-harbor” exemption, and follows the proscribed notice and takedown procedures, only the individual infringing customer will liable for money damages. The online service provider’s network through which the alleged activities occurred would not be liable.


If a copyright owner learns that someone has infringed his or her copyright by publishing material online without permission, the copyright owner may use these provisions of the DMCA to notify the provider hosting the website and insist on removal of the infringing material.

Once a “takedown notice” is given to the service provider, or where the service provider discovers the infringing material itself, it is required to expeditiously remove, or disable access to that material.

The DMCA also establishes a procedure by which a copyright owner can obtain a subpoena from a federal court ordering a service provider to disclose the identity of a subscriber who is allegedly engaging in infringing activities.

If the alleged infringer can provide a “counter-notice” claiming that the material does not infringe the copyright and the service provider must then promptly notify the claiming party of the individual’s objection. Otherwise, the infringing material will be removed.

If determined that the copyright owner misrepresented his claim regarding the alleged infringement, the copyright owner would then become liable to the service provider for any damages that resulted from the improper removal of the material.

Anti-Circumvention Provisions

Under the DMCA “anti-circumvention” provisions, it is illegal to circumvent a technological measure protecting access to, or copying of a copyrighted work. The DMCA makes it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into most commercial software and outlaws the manufacture, sale, or
distribution of code-cracking devices used to illegally copy software.

Search Engines

All of the major Internet search engines address the issue of intellectual property infringement within their networks and have mechanisms in place to handle claims of copyright infringement under the DMCA.

According to Google: “Response to these notices may include removing or disabling access to material claimed to be the subject of infringing activity, and/or terminating subscribers.”

This means that acts of online copyright infringement could result in a website being removed from organic search results on the major search engines and the infringing party’s paid advertising
accounts terminated.