Sign In

Communications of the ACM

Legally speaking

Copyright's Online Service Providers Safe Harbors Under Siege

copyright symbol in swirling waters, illustration

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates, Shutterstock

For the last 20 years, the laws of the U.S., E.U., and most of the rest of the world, have provided Online Service Providers (OSPs) that host user-uploaded content with "safe harbors" insulating them from claims of copyright infringement so long as they did not know about or participate in infringing acts of their users. Yet, once a copyright owner has notified an OSP about the presence of infringing materials at a particular place on its site, the OSP has generally had a responsibility to investigate and remove or disable access to infringing materials. This notice-and-takedown safe harbor became part of U.S. law as a result of passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998.

This safe harbor, now codified in § 512 of U.S. copyright law, has never been popular with major copyright industries. Those industries acquiesced to these rules in 1998 as part of a grand compromise with other industries and organizations to get support for enactment of rules that outlaw tools for circumventing technical protection measures that major copyright industries planned to use when distributing digital copies of their works.


No entries found

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.