Thursday, February 25, 2016

Received a Copyright Infringement Notice? Here are Some Tips!

Some libraries have received copyright infringement notices. These notices, sent to the library by an attorney on behalf of their client, informs the library that it has been connected to someone who has illegally accessed and/or shared copyright material online. Receiving notices from law firms can be unnerving, especially when asked to provide a settlement fee or risk going to court.

Copyright symbol C
Copyright Symbol. Image courtesy of Wees
However, a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 amends the U.S. copyright law Section 512, "limitation on liability relating to material online." This provision protects online service provider (OSP) from liability from third party infringement. Since the library usually gets its online internet service from a cable or telecommunications company, libraries fall under the OSP umbrella. In addition to this, Carrie Russell of the American Library Association (ALA) - Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) wrote, "The OSP will not be held liable for monetary relief, injunctive relief or infringement of copyright if when contacted by a rights holder who claims that infringing material is found on the OSP's network..." Russell goes on to share three steps that a library should take to handle these notices:
  1. Establish an Interim Designation Agent (IDA) who receives and documents the notices. The library needs to provide the name, address, phone number, fax number, and email address of the agent on a publicly accessible place on its website. Also, the library must provide this information to the U.S. Copyright Office. A form is available online, and a fee of $105.00 is due when the form is submitted. More information about the form and program can be found on the Copyright Office webpage.  
  2. Document notices as they come in (responsibility of the IDA).
  3. Remove alleged content at the request of a rights holder when it can be found
  4. Place signs near the public computer terminals about copyright law similar to notices that you place in front of photocopiers. It can simply state, "Using library computers and network to copy and distribute copyright protected works may be an infringement of the copyright law (Title 17 of the U.S. Code)."
Carrie Russell also notes that libraries do not have to block file sharing protocols, even at the request of their OSP. These protocols are used for non-infringing purposes, so blocking the site based on a single or even multiple cases is not recommended. 
If you have any questions regarding what your library should do when receiving a copyright infringement notice, contact Ryan Claringbole at Carrie Russell of ALA OITP can be reached at

Written by:
Ryan Claringbole, Public Library Development Team