Copyright – the other side

As a web hosting company, we sometimes get involved in the other side of copyright infringement.

Normally in a blog post about copyright you will either read about how to avoid copyright issues, or how someone has been accused of copyright infringement. However, we get involved on the other side.

The first thing we know about copyright issues is usually an e-mail. This e-mail will be sent after notification (or if there are no contact methods for the site owner) have been ignored by the site owner. A notification will tell us what the offending site is, where the content can be found and also specify who is the copyright holder.

Usually, these notices require us to act within a short period of time (24 – 72 hours), otherwise, the contact will go up to the providers of our services (and we don’t want those to turn off our network connections!). So how do we investigate?

  1. We check to see if the site is really hosted by us (yes sometimes we might get requests even if we don’t host a site, usually if we used to host it).
  2. Assuming we host it, we check to see if we can access the content specified. It is not too uncommon for a mistake to be made, and the content is not hosted on the site – but linked to from the site. That in itself is not a copyright infringement – but we will notify our customer of the issue (but can’t take it down if it isn’t on our server!). We would also notify the company involved of the findings as well.
  3. If it’s on our servers we will not remove it immediately (we only have one side of the story at this point). We will get in touch with our customer and notify them about the potential breach. Usually, they will remove it.
  4. If the content isn’t removed after 24 hours (or less depending on the timeframe we have) we investigate further. If we can find the disputed content elsewhere and it appears to be linked to the complaining company we will most likely suspend the customer’s site (this usually means they get in touch anyway – bearing in mind they haven’t responded to us so far).

If the content does not appear to be on the complaining companies sites we will seek clarification (people can abuse these notices to try to remove competition online). We would continue to contact our customer.

It’s a tricky situation where we have to both honour our customers who pay us for the service, but if a legal issue arises we also have to act to remain legal.

Would we ever suspend a customer immediately?

No – we would always try to get in touch with them. However, if it is our providers re-laying a cease order we will often have to act in a lot smaller timeframe and may end up taking suspension action within a few hours to avoid problems for the rest of our customers.