Anyone who deals with copyrighted or potentially copyrighted content – whether it’s a content creator, website owner, or torrenter – is affected by DMCA. And if you’re not careful, you could find yourself served with a DMCA notice or DMCA takedown.
But what the heck is a DMCA notice? And how do you avoid getting one? Keep reading to find out.
[+] 'What is a DMCA Notice' contents (select to expand)
What is DMCA?
DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It was passed by Congress in 1998 to make fighting online copyright infringement easier.
The act allows copyright holders, like a music label or movie studio, to go after people who use, upload, or download their content online without permission. That could be streaming, torrenting, or even just using some copyrighted music in a Youtube video or Twitch stream.
What is a DMCA Notice? And Why Did I Receive One?
Usually, copyright holders “go after” people by contacting the company that’s hosting the content – or just your internet service provider. This will result in either a DMCA takedown or DMCA notice.
In other words, they either take down the content themselves (DMCA takedown) or warn you to take it down yourself and/or not to do it again (DMCA notice). Websites, hosting services, ISPs, etc. are required by law to address the offending content once notified.
So, that leads us to the question: “why did I receive a DMCA notice?”
There are two potential reasons. The first, and most common, is for downloading a torrent or streaming content that contains copyrighted material, like a popular Hollywood movie.
Copyright holders tend to be more aggressive in pursuing people who upload torrents. However, since more people download and stream than upload, it’s the more common thing to receive a DMCA notice for. Especially since most people also “seed” a torrent as they’re downloading.
The second cause of DMCA notices is posting or hosting copyrighted content on something like a website, social media channel, blog, etc. Again, this could be as simple as adding your favorite band’s song to your Youtube video without permission or using copyrighted images on your blog.
As we touched on before, sometimes the content will simply be taken down first and you’ll be notified afterwards. This is known as a “DMCA takedown”.
What to Do If You Receive a DMCA Notice
Unfortunately, there’s no one right answer to handling a DMCA notice, since it depends on both the internet service provider you use and the country you live in.
For instance, in Germany, these notices often come with a fine attached. If you try to ignore the letter without paying the fine, you’re only making things worse.
In the US, however, your first DMCA notice is usually a warning. If you continue to torrent – and get caught doing so – you will receive more warnings or “strikes”, until the point that your ISP cancels your service entirely. Of course, copyright infringement lawsuits aren’t unheard of in the USA either.
So, how should you handle a DMCA notice?
1. If you’re in the US and the letter is a warning to stop sharing content, you can either stop torrenting – or start protecting yourself, which we’ll show you how to do below. If the notice was from hosting content, like on a website or channel you run, it may be a good idea to either take it down or to change web hosts.
2. If you’re in another country and/or your notice contains a fine or other monetary threats, you should first make sure the letter is real. In some countries, like Germany, there are actually people who will create fraudulent letters to scam money out of you.
If you determine it’s real, you may want to consider either paying the fine or seeking legal counsel, which is beyond the scope of our advice or expertise.
Again, it’s hard to give a one-size-fits-all answer to such a complicated question.
How to Tell if a DMCA Notice is Real
In the US, a legit DMCA notice will include:
- The copyrighted content in question, including its name and type
- The copyright owner’s name
- The date and time it was shared or posted
- The location it was posted or the IP address used to download/stream it
- Additional info about how you violated DMCA
Of course, you could always call your ISP, assuming the notice is from them, to make sure it’s real.
How to Avoid DMCA Notices
Typically, the DMCA notice process is started when a “copyright troll” or other third-party observes your IP address uploading or downloading a torrent. Because of the nature of P2P downloads, your IP address is exposed when you’re part of a torrent “swarm”, broadcasting it for everyone and anyone to see.
Another possibility is your ISP monitoring your traffic directly and seeing your torrent activity that way.
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to both tactics – and that’s a virtual private network, or VPN. Not only will it hide your real IP address, it’ll encrypt your traffic, making it nearly impossible for either your ISP or other parties to see what you’re downloading.
That’s why we consider a trustworthy VPN, like PIA VPN, is a must-have for safe torrenting. It's also a great way to protect your privacy and security online, even when not downloading content.
What is a DMCA Notice? Wrap-Up
So, now you know what a DMCA notice is, what it means, and how to avoid them. As we covered above, the penalties and severity of a DMCA notice will depend on where you live and what internet service provider you use.
Obviously, it’s better to avoid a DMCA notice in the first place, using tools like a VPN. They'll enable you to torrent and stream content in peace.