Copyright is a legal construct that protects the "right to copy" creative works. Usually the materials protected come in the form of pictures, music, literary works, video, etc., though technically any creative expression — even something as simple as a shopping list can be protected under copyright law.
Most industrialized nations have some form of legal protection for copyright holders, instituting often hefty civil and even criminal penalties against those who engage in the violation of copyrights. DreamHost has policies that prohibit the unauthorized/unlawful use of copyrighted materials.
This page is mostly of help to current DreamHost customers. If you believe that a DreamHost customer has infringed upon your copyright, feel free to skip the 'Reporting copyright infringement to DreamHost' section below.
DreamHost does not allow customers to engage in or knowingly facilitate the unauthorized distribution or acquisition of copyrighted material in conjunction with its services. Unless you have obtained explicit permission from the copyright holder to do so — or are the copyright holder yourself — any of the following are prohibited:
- Downloading or distributing commercial DVD rips, TV shows, etc.
- Storing "back-up" copies of illegally obtained DVD rips, TV shows, etc.
- Distributing pictures/photos/videos belonging to someone else.
- Distributing songs and music files.
Note that DreamHost also prohibits the facilitation of copyright infringement. This means that linking to pirated files (even those located on non-DreamHost servers), operating BitTorrent trackers that primarily feature illegal material, the operation of 'warez' forums, etc., are prohibited.
Obviously, there is some subjectivity to these matters, and it is very easy to accidentally facilitate copyright infringement even if this is not intended. For that reason, DreamHost does take a reasonable approach when deciding what constitutes contributory copyright infringement. For example, embedding one or two YouTube videos on your site is a very different matter than running a site whose main purpose is to index and link to downloads of commercial Hollywood movies.
For the purposes of DreamHost's policies, 'distribution' entails either distributing material directly from your account (i.e., sharing files from your web space or via FTP), or embedding material located on non-DreamHost servers so it displays within your server. It also includes willfully facilitating copyright infringement by linking to known infringing works, as described above.
For the purpose of DreamHost policies, 'acquisition' entails using your DreamHost account to illegally obtain copyrighted material. This usually involves the use of BitTorrent, the 'wget' tool, FTP, etc.
For the purpose of DreamHost policies, 'storage' involves the storage of copyrighted material that was obtained unlawfully. If you use BitTorrent or some other tool from your own computer to illegally obtain a DVD rip, and then store a copy under your DreamHost account (even if it's not being re-distributed), such activity would be prohibited.
Complaints & the DMCA process
If DreamHost runs into an obvious infringement, you will be contacted and asked that you remove the infringing material and refrain from future copyright violations. Especially egregious infringement usually results in immediate disablement without refund per the Terms of Service.
Sometimes, the only way DreamHost finds out about the possible infringement is when contacted by a 3rd party. In such cases, DreamHost requires the copyright holder — or someone acting in an official capacity on their behalf — submit a formal DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Notification. This process is described in DMCA Title II, also known as the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act.
In a nutshell, the process works like this:
The copyright holder submits a formal DMCA Notification of infringement, directing DreamHost to the allegedly infringing material. If the Notification meets all the requirements required by law, DreamHost expeditiously removes (or requires the customer to remove) that material. As the owner of the site, you may opt to file a formal DMCA Counter-Notification in order to contest the initial complaint. If DreamHost does not receive word from the complaining party within 10 business days that they have filed suit against you, DreamHost will then re-instate the content.
A legal document filed under penalty of laws against perjury stating that the filing party is or represents the copyright holder, that they have a good faith belief that infringement is taking place, and identifying the infringing content. Again, this is a legal document with very specific requirements, so the help of an attorney is recommended in its drafting.
Note that it is extremely important to provide DreamHost with a full list of all infringing material when filing a DMCA Notification. If the list is ambiguous or overly broad, the DMCA Notification may not be accepted. A full list of specific URLs is preferred.
This is the process wherein DreamHost personnel ensure that the content specified in the complaining party's Notification is taken offline. Usually, DreamHost removes such material, though in some cases the assistance of the customer may be required.
A legal document filed under penalty of laws against perjury wherein the owner of the DreamHost-hosted site claims that they believe that the removal of the material should not have occurred (i.e., it falls under Fair Use). Again, this is a legal document with very specific requirements, so the help of an attorney is recommended in its drafting.
This is the process wherein DreamHost personnel reinstate the content removed during the DMCA takedown process. This occurs no sooner than 10 days after the initial takedown. In some cases, the account owner's help may be needed to complete the reinstatement.
Note that this is a very basic generalization of the DMCA process, and the specifics of the law are beyond the scope of this document. With such matters, it's highly recommend that you seek representation from a qualified intellectual property attorney. Please understand that as a neutral party, DreamHost is unable to provide legal advice.
DMCA abuse & misuse
From time to time, someone attempts to blatantly misuse the DMCA process in order to remove content from someone else's site. Usually when this occurs, it is done to censor content they find offensive or that is critical of them. Other times, it's simply a matter of a DMCA Notification being overly broad or ambiguous.
In any case, DreamHost will not accept a clearly invalid or overly broad or ambiguous DMCA Notification. The DMCA is not a tool with which to bully or censor customers, and those who abuse the process open themselves up to significant legal liability.
DreamHost reserves the right to terminate any account found to be engaging in copyright infringement at any time, with or without prior notice. Multiple legally uncontested DMCA Notifications are typically considered evidence of infringement, and are usually grounds for termination as well.
Reporting copyright infringement to DreamHost
If you believe that your copyright is being infringed upon by a DreamHost customer, submit a formal DMCA Notification to DreamHost with a complete list of all allegedly infringing materials (direct URLs). A qualified intellectual property attorney can help you with the drafting of such a document.
If I'm in a picture or video, do I automatically own the copyright to it?
Legally, the person who holds the copyright to a given image, video or other creative work is the person who actually created it. For example, a photographer or videographer. Simply being in an image or video does not automatically give you control over the image or its distribution — even if your visage plays a prominent role in the work in question.
Be absolutely certain you're okay with this before putting yourself in a position of being filmed or photographed, as you may find out the hard way that you can't control your own image.
I'm not the copyright holder, but still want to report infringement
If you see any obvious/blatant infringement going on, please report it to DreamHost. However, in all but the most blatant of cases (even in some cases that may seem like obvious infringement to you) DreamHost still needs to receive a DMCA Notification directly from the copyright holder or their official representative before any content can be removed. If that's not you, the best thing to do is contact the copyright holder yourself and link them to this page so they know how to contact DreamHost.
Do I really need an attorney?
Technically, you don't need an attorney to write a DMCA Notification, though it's highly recommended. There are some up-front costs, but if you don't know what you're doing you can find yourself in serious legal trouble. As for cost, while filing a fully compliant DMCA Notification is complicated for most people, any decent intellectual property attorney will have no problem with this. So it won't take long or cost much, as these things go, and is still a lot cheaper than being sued.
In any case, DreamHost will look over your DMCA Notification to make sure it meets all of the necessary legal requirements. If it doesn't, DreamHost is unable take further action.
Where do I send the DMCA Notification?
If you've read the above and still feel that your copyright is being abused, you may send your DMCA Notification to the following email address:
Please include it within the text of the message — not as an attachment.
What if there is no copyright (©) symbol?
While the copyright symbol (©) is often placed on copyrighted works, it is not required. All creative works are covered by copyright protection upon creation.
What if I found it on the Internet?
Simply finding content on the Internet alone does not give you permission to redistribute it yourself. It's quite possible that someone else is infringing upon the copyright holder's rights as well, but that does not provide you with the legal right to do so. You should obtain permission prior to redistributing any content.
Note that some content has been placed in the public domain, though that is very rare. More common is content published under a very permissive license, such as Creative Commons. These are fine to redistribute, as long as you follow the requirements contained within the license.
What if I'm not making money off of it?
While the penalties for infringement with intent to profit can be significantly higher, you can still be found liable for infringement even if you do not profit from it.
Nobody has complained. Is there a problem?
You must still ensure that your usage is allowed, and this means obtaining permission from the copyright holder first. Whether or not they are likely to complain, you should assume that they do not allow redistribution unless they actually say they do. In other words, the obligation is on you to find out if it's okay, not the copyright holder to search for infringements.
What about unlicensed/fansubbed anime?
A common misconception is that copyright law does not apply to creative works originating from foreign countries, such as Japanese anime or manga. This is not true — as both Japan and the USA are signatories of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works along with 160 or so other countries. Copyrights are recognized and protected — even across international borders. This means that anime (including "fansubbed" anime), manga, etc., are subject to the very same protections under copyright law that other works enjoy.
For this reason, all of the usual copyright policies still apply.
What if a site visitor uploaded the content, not me?
You are responsible for any content associated with your account. DreamHost takes into consideration the fact that it's not always possible to prevent 3rd parties from uploading such material (particularly in message forums, wikis, etc.), though it is expected that the operators of such sites create and enforce policies to act quickly when such matters are reported.