DMCA Takedown Policy
Welcome to Buffer’s Guide to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, commonly known as the “DMCA.” This page is as an overview of the statute, and should not be considered as comprehensive. However, if you’ve received a DMCA takedown notice targeting a file you have hosted on Buffer or if you’re a rights-holder looking to issue such a notice, this page will hopefully help to lay out our policies for complying with it.
If you just want to submit a notice, you can skip to the end.
As with all legal matters, it is always best to consult with a professional about your specific questions or situation. We strongly encourage you to do so before taking any action that might impact your rights. This guide isn’t legal advice and shouldn’t be taken as such.
What Is the DMCA?
In order to understand the DMCA and some of the policy lines it draws, it’s helpful to learn about the reasons the act was created.
Before the DMCA, an Internet-based service provider like Buffer could be liable for copyright infringement in the United States just for hosting its users’ pictures, music, videos or code. This was true even if it had no actual knowledge of any infringing content. This was a problem, since even a single claim of copyright infringement can carry statutory damages of up to $150,000. With potential damages that high multiplied across millions of users, cloud-computing and user-generated content sites like YouTube, Facebook or GitHub probably never would have existed (or at least not without passing some of that cost downstream to their users).
The DMCA attempted to fix this problem by creating a so-called copyright liability “safe harbor” for internet service providers hosting allegedly infringing user-generated content. (See U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 512.) Essentially, so long as a service provider follows the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown rules, it won’t be liable for copyright infringement based on user-generated content. Because of this it is important for Buffer to maintain its DMCA safe-harbor status.
The DMCA provides two simple, straightforward procedures that all Buffer users should know about: (i) a takedown-notice procedure for copyright holders to request that content be removed; and (ii) a counter-notice procedure for users to get content reenabled when content is taken down by mistake.
DMCA takedown notices are used by copyright owners to ask Buffer to take down infringing content. If someone else is using your copyrighted content in an unauthorized manner on Buffer, you can send us a DMCA takedown notice to request that the infringing content be changed or removed.
On the other hand, counter notices can be used to correct mistakes. Maybe the person sending the takedown notice does not hold the copyright or did not realize that you have a license or made some other mistake in their takedown notice. Since Buffer usually cannot know if there has been a mistake, the DMCA counter notice allows you to let us know and ask that we put the content back up.
A. How It Works
Buffer acts as a middleman. The copyright owner gives Buffer a complaint about a user. If that complaint has been filed properly, we pass it along to the user. If the user disputes the complaint, Buffer passes that dispute back to the copyright owner. Buffer passes no judgement apart from verifying the notices meet the minimum requirements of the DMCA. It is up to the parties (and their lawyers) to evaluate the merit of their claims, bearing in mind that notices must be made under penalty of perjury.
These are the basic steps of the process:
1. Copyright Owner Investigates. A copyright owner should always conduct an initial investigation to confirm both (a) that they own the copyright to an original work and (b) that the content on Buffer is unauthorized and infringing.
2. Copyright Owner Sends A Notice. After conducting an investigation, a copyright owner prepares and sends a takedown notice to Buffer. Assuming the takedown notice is sufficiently detailed according to the statutory requirements (as explained in the how-to guide), we will post the notice to our public repository and pass the link along to the affected user.
3. Buffer Asks User to Make Changes. If the notice alleges that the entire contents of a site infringe, we will skip to Step 6 and take the site offline. Otherwise, because Buffer cannot disable access to specific pages or files on a site, we will contact the user and give them approximately 24 hours to delete or modify the content specified in the notice. We’ll notify the copyright owner if and when we give the user a chance to make changes.
4. User Notifies Buffer of Changes. If the user chooses to make the specified changes, they must tell us so within the approximately 24-hour window. If they don’t, we will take the site offline (as described in Step 6). If the user notifies us that they made changes, we will verify that the changes have been made and then notify the copyright owner.
5. Copyright Owner Revises or Retracts the Notice. If the user makes changes, the copyright owner must review them and renew or revise their takedown notice if the changes are insufficient. Buffer will not take any further action unless the copyright owner contacts us to either renew the original takedown notice or submit a revised one. If the copyright owner is satisfied with the changes, they may either submit a formal retraction or else do nothing. Buffer will interpret silence longer than two weeks as an implied retraction of the takedown notice.
6. Buffer May Disable Access to the Content. Buffer will disable a user’s site if: (i) the copyright owner has alleged copyright over the user’s entire site (as noted in Step 3); (ii) the user has not made any changes after being given an opportunity to do so (as noted in Step 4); or (iii) the copyright owner has renewed their takedown notice after the user had a chance to make changes. If the copyright owner chooses instead to revise the notice, we will go back to Step 2 and repeat the process as if the revised notice were a new notice.
7. User May Send A Counter Notice. We encourage users who have had content disabled to consult with a lawyer about their options. If a user believes that their content was disabled as a result of a mistake or misidentification, they may send us a counter notice. As with the original notice, we will make sure that the counter notice is sufficiently detailed (as explained in the how-to guide). If it is, we will post it to our public repository and pass the notice back to the copyright owner by sending them the link.
8. Copyright Owner May File a Legal Action. If a copyright owner wishes to keep the content disabled after receiving a counter notice, they will need to initiate a legal action seeking a court order to restrain the user from engaging in infringing activity relating to the content on Buffer. In other words, you might get sued. If the copyright owner does not give Buffer notice within 10-14 days, by sending a copy of a valid legal complaint filed in a court of competent jurisdiction, Buffer will reenable the disabled site.
B. What If I Inadvertently Missed the Window to Make Changes?
There are any number of reasons you may not have been able to make changes within the 24 hour window we provide for changes before your site is taken offline. If you respond to let us know you were willing to comply with the requested changes but missed your window, we will re-enable your site for an additional 24 hours to allow you to make the necessary changes. You must notify us that you have made the changes for your site to continue to be live after that 24-hour window expires, as noted above. Please note we will only provide one 24-hour period for you to make these changes.
We believe that transparency is a virtue. The public should know what content is being removed from Buffer and why. An informed public can notice and surface potential issues that would otherwise go unnoticed in an opaque system. We post redacted copies of any legal notices we receive (including original notices, counter notices or retractions) at https://github.com/bufferapp/dmca. We will not publicly publish your personal contact information; we will remove personal information (except for usernames in URLs) before publishing notices. We will not, however, redact any other information from your notice unless you specifically ask us to.
Please also note that, although we will not publicly publish unredacted notices, we may provide a complete unredacted copy of any notices we receive directly to any party whose rights would be affected by it.
D. Repeated Infringement
It is the policy of Buffer, in appropriate circumstances and in its sole discretion, to disable and/or terminate the accounts of users who may infringe upon the copyrights or other intellectual property rights of Buffer and/or others.
E. Submitting Notices
If you are ready to submit a notice or a counter notice:
*Note: Buffer’s DMCA policies have been influenced by those at Netlify.