User Uploaded Content Dangers

So I’m working on a site that’s would allow bands to upload their orginally created music to share and sell. They would have to confirm they are the owner of the material and forgo royalties in the Terms and Conditions.

My big legal question is what about the jerks who pretend they are a bands and upload some copyrighted song that is not theirs? Will the DMCA Safe Habor rule save me from legal action if i was to take down any content that was proven to be infringed upon similar to how youtube does? What if that copyrighted song was played 100 times on the site, would i have to pay royalties even though it was uploaded against the ToC?

Google was victorious in the lawsuit by Viacom against Youtube. The court ruled that Youtube/Google is not liable for infringement in cases where videos were uploaded by users of the site. As the original poster is in the USA (and you are in the UK), the USA ruling is what matters.

Google shouldn’t be liable and neither should any other host. First off, it is impossible to calculate the monetary loss involved in such infringement, if any, and most importantly, Youtube serves a legitimate purpose other than hosting copyrighted files. Most videos on Youtube probably are not infringed.

The court decided that it is impossible for Youtube to know what is infringed and what is not. There have been many cases where media companies have uploaded content to Youtube as a vehicle for promotion. So, if the media company uploads it, it’s OK, but if someone uploads it without permission, then it is not OK. Youtube cannot possibly know which is which. Also, there are media companies such as South Park Studios that do not care if their content is distributed on the web. Youtube cannot possibly know that, either.

If an American webmaster hosting files has a statement that the uploader must hold copyrights and making them check a box certifying they have such rights when uploading, that should be more than enough. And they certainly will not have to worry about going to jail.

Frivolous lawsuits are filed every day. The United States is screwed up. The legal system was designed by politicians who are lawyers and they have a vested interest in keeping themselves and their colleagues employed and rolling in money.

Don’t worry about copyright issues. Just make your uploaders check a box certifying they have the right to upload the content. Also have a statement on your site indicating that you do not support copyright infringement. If you get a DMCA complaint, take appropriate action. Otherwise, you have nothing to worry about.

Thanks for the great information, i figured i’d win in court since the intent is good, unlike pirate bay, but in the end you can’t really prevent people from suing you. Also the info about the content host was an angle i didn’t think prior.

On a related note, does anyone know of any services that can identify copyrighted material. For example someone uploads a mp3 to my site, i pass information in some form to this service and it can tell me whether its copyrighted material. It seems like something like that should and could exists, my searching hasn’t revealed anything.


The DMCA should protect you, as long as you detail the correct procedure people need to abide by when making a DMCA notification to you. If you act in a timely manner and remove the file, you should be covered under the DMCA.

However, be aware that this doesn’t stop people suing you - you will argue safe harbor in court and probably win, but you’ll still need the cash to defend yourself.

As for a web host that shuts you down under pressure from third parties - ensure you have off-site backups and change web host, only takes a few hours to move.

Last I remember hearing - Youtube uses Audible Magic’s audio fingerprinting tech and is pretty successful with it.

Wikipedia’s got a good few other options to explore though.

I am not a US lawyer, but from working in this space for a while from across the pond, from what I understand…

Under the DMCA, a company does not have to prove their ownership of copyright - just claim it and you have to take it down to be more likely to be covered by the safe harbour provision.

Also, as @dvduval notes - whilst you may be complying with the DMCA, any copyright holder may well attempt to bypass you in claiming breach of copyright and contact your host directly and getting your site taken down. Some hosts will just remove the offending mp3 until the issue is sorted, but others jump at the first glimpse of a DMCA claim.

Simply put… no. Unfortunately you are going into a space which has the RIAA involved (which throws all the usual rules out of the window). While the DMCA will give you “some” protection (in respect to getting warnings as to the initial potential flow of copyright material on your site), it’s been well established through past cases that as the host of that content, you will be held entirely liable for the site and it’s content and you’ll effectively get branded as a trafficker of illegal works. The case with the owners of the pirate bay is a point worth highlighting as they didn’t even host the content themselves (they just gave links). Google are suffering a lot of legal pursuits from the media industries relating to YouTube on the basis that their being held responsible as the media industry believes that Google should be doing more to eliminate illegal content on the site. The upside is that you won’t have to pay royalties if you are issued a takedown notice (as you didn’t have the license to hold the music to begin with), the downside is that your neck is the one that’ll be on the block and they could file lawsuits against you. Even if you worked with the media industries to resolve such issues by passing on the details of people who upload copyrighted music (so they can go after them instead), you could well find yourself suffering extremely large, lengthy legal battles which could see you having to pay thousands or millions in damages (depending on how bad it gets) or serving jail time.

PS: I’m not a lawyer, but I know quite a bit about how IP law has been affecting sites offering music or media (illegally or otherwise).

Your biggest problem is going to be where you host the content. You can probably avoid legal fees if you respond to requests to remove content (better have a good system). The bigger problem is these media companies can threaten your host and the host won’t want to fool with you, and just suspend your site.

You might find this helpful <snip> - it includes some useful guides and the author shares some legal experiences he had concerning his ring tone site, that might be relevant to you.