Do DMCA Notices Work Outside the U.S.?
You’ve worked hard to build your website. You spent hours putting it all together, making sure every little detail was perfect. And you spent even more time writing a lot of great content to share ideas, not to mention help your site rank better. Your website is a result of not just time and effort, but care and attention. It’s a labor of love.
So when you see someone has stolen some of your content, it can feel like you’ve had the wind knocked out of you, and you’re left there, alone, staring at your carefully crafted words on a site that’s not yours. Your first thought is to issue a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice, but then you realize the content thief is based outside the United States. Now what do you do? Do U.S. copyright laws extend beyond the country’s borders? Even if they do, how are you going to enforce them from across an ocean?
A reverse scenario is also possible. Maybe you’re the one who lives outside the U.S., and your content has been appropriated by someone in the United States. Can you use a DMCA notice?
The simple answer in both cases is—most likely, but it depends. First, a little background.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
If you’re unfamiliar with this topic, your first question might be, “What is a DMCA notice?”
It’s basically a formal request made to the person or entity who has—whether purposely or mistakenly—taken your content without your permission, asking that they take it down. If they comply with your DMCA notice, you’re all done. If they don’t, you may have to pursue the matter through legal channels.
The DMCA puts into practice two World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties.
World Intellectual Property Organization
Copyright, intellectual property, and content theft aren’t new concepts created by the proliferation of the Internet. They’ve been issues since humans learned to write. However, it is only fairly recently that national organizations and governments decided to take action.
Created in 1967, by a convention that took place in Stockholm, Sweden, part of the WIPO’s stated purpose is “…to encourage creative activity, to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world…” With the advent of the publicly accessible Internet, the WIPO’s purpose has become even more important.
As of 2013, 186 of the 193 United Nations members are also members of the WIPO, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It may be easier to understand the WIPO’s pervasiveness and scope by noting which states are not members: Federated States of Micronesia; Solomon Islands; Marshall Islands; Palau; Nauru; Timor-Leste; South Sudan; Tuvalu; and Palestine maintains observer status. The organization administers roughly 25 international treaties, including the ones implemented by the DMCA.
It’s important to understand the WIPO’s existence and purpose, and the fact that so many countries are members because this is what’s going to help you if your content is ever stolen by someone, whether you’re the one in the U.S. or not.
The key to whether or not a DMCA notice will work anywhere outside the U.S. Depends on two things—where you’re located, and where the site that stole your content is hosted.
If You’re in the United States…
…and the site where your content has appeared without your permission is hosted in any of the WIPO member countries, you can confidently issue a DMCA takedown notice, and expect the site’s owner to comply. Of course, DMCA notices are not guarantees of cooperation, and someone who’s in, say, Hungary may not feel they need to comply with a DMCA issued by someone in the U.S.
If this occurs, you do still have legal recourse, although the international aspect of the case may make things a bit more complicated, not to mention expensive.
If the site where your content has been published is hosted in a country that is not a member of the WIPO, you may have a bit of a difficult time getting it removed. You can reach out to the site owner yourself, but if you don’t get a response or compliance, you may want to consult an attorney.
If You’re Outside the United States…
…and someone in the U.S. has published your copyright-protected content on their website, you can also issue a DMCA notice, and expect full compliance. Again, there’s no guarantee of that, and you may have to pursue legal action.
Before you issue a DMCA notice yourself, though, check the rules where you live. They may vary from country to country.
Use a DMCA Service
If the thought of issuing a DMCA takedown notice in your own country is initimidating enough without the complications of turning it into an international incident, consider using a DMCA service. They can handle all the paperwork and headaches for you, and guide you through the entire process.
Usually, in addition to international treaties set up for intellectual property issues, DMCA services may work with counterpart services in other countries, which can expedite the process.
Intellectual Property Tips
- You don’t have to register a copyright on your content for it to be protected. You can, and it may make it easier to prove it’s yours if a violation becomes a nasty fight. But it’s not mandatory.
- Make sure you understand fair use, and that your content does not fall under those standards before you take any action.
- Try contacting the offending site’s owner yourself first. It may very well be that they’re unaware the content they published belongs to you. In fact, consider this scenario: You find your content on Site A. You reach out to them, tell them the content is yours, and ask them to remove it. Site A responds, apologizes, says they’ve removed the content, and tells you they didn’t realize it belonged to you because they found it on Site B. You hadn’t seen your content on Site B, and didn’t even know it existed—but now you do. And it looks like Site B was the original pilferer of your content. By giving Site A a chance to respond first, you discovered another place your content was published without your permission, and can now take the same steps to have it taken down.
Finding your content published on another site without your permission is no picnic. But at least now you know that if and when it happens, and the offending site is not located in the same country that you are, you still have recourse and can protect your intellectual property.
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