Takeaway: To protect your website from copyright violations, be sure to take down copyrighted material posted by third-parties as soon as you receive actual or red flag notice of the posting and clearly communicate to users that this type of posting activity is not allowed.
In the case of Ventura Content v. Motherless the owner of a website that displayed copyrighted images qualified for the safe harbor defense set forth in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA") since the material on the website was stored at the direction of third-party users.
The 9th Circuit reasoned that the owner did not have actual or apparent knowledge that the images were infringing, they expeditiously removed the infringing material upon receiving actual or red flag notice of the infringement, and did not receive any financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity. Additionally, the owner of the website had a policy of excluding repeat infringers from the website. Due to these factors, the 9th Circuit affirmed the District Court's ruling that there was no copyright infringement because they followed the proper steps outlined above in the operation of their website.
On the other hand, dissenting Judge Rawlinson thought there were questions of fact regarding defendant's compliance with the requirements they adopted on their website. This may have been a problem because there was a dispute as to how well they informed their subscribers and account holders of their copyright policies. For there to be little dispute as to whether DMCA will protect your business, a website should clearly communicate to users that repeat offenders of copyright violations will be terminated.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.