DreamHost Web Hosting: Abuse Center
Section: Spam & UBE
Section: Copyright Infringement
Section: Trademark Infringement
Section: Cracking, Intrusion & DOS
Section: Fraud, Phishing & 419 Scams
Section: Libel & Defamation
Section: Child Pornography
Copyright Infringement

Copyright is a legal construct that protects the "right to copy" creative works. Usually the materials protected come in the form of pictures, music, literary works, video, etc. though technically any creative expression - even something as simple as a shopping list can be protected under copyright law.

Most industrialized nations have some form of legal protection for copyright holders, instituting often hefty civil and even criminal penalties against those who engage in the violation of copyrights. At DreamHost, we too have our own policies that prohibit the unauthorized/unlawful use of copyrighted materials.

Note: This page is mostly of help to current DreamHost customers. If you believe that a DreamHost customer has infringed upon your copyright, feel free to skip here.
Our rules
We do not allow our customers to engage in or knowingly facilitate the unauthorized distribution or acquisition of copyrighted material in conjunction with our services. Unless you have obtained explicit permission from the copyright holder to do so - or are the copyright holder yourself - any of the following are prohibited:
  • Downloading or distributing commercial DVD rips, TV shows, etc.
  • Storing "back-up" copies of illegally obtained DVD rips, TV shows, etc.
  • Distributing pictures/photos/videos belonging to someone else.
  • Distributing songs and music files.
Note that we also prohibit the facilitation of copyright infringement. This means that linking to pirated files (even those located on non-DreamHost servers), operating BitTorrent trackers that primarily feature illegal material, the operation of 'warez' forums, etc. are prohibited.

Obviously, there is some subjectivity to these matters, and it is very easy to accidentally facilitate copyright infringement even if this is not intended. For that reason, we do take a reasonable approach when deciding what constitutes contributory copyright infringement. For example, embedding one or two YouTube videos on your site is a very different matter than running a site whose main purpose is to index and link to downloads of commercial Hollywood movies.
Term: Distribution
For the purposes of our policies, 'distribution' entails either distributing material directly from your account (ie. sharing files from your web space or via FTP) or embedding material located on non-DreamHost servers so that it displays within your server. It also includes willfully facilitating copyright infringement by linking to known infringing works, as described above.
Term: Acquisition
For the purposes of our policies, 'acquisition' entails using your DreamHost account to illegally obtain copyrighted material. This usually involves the use of BitTorrent, the 'wget' tool, FTP, etc.
Term: Storage
For the purposes of our policies, 'storage' involves the storage of copyrighted material that was obtained unlawfully. So, if you use BitTorrent or some other tool from your own computer to illegally obtain a DVD rip and then store a copy under your DreamHost account (even if it's not being re-distributed), such activity would be prohibited.
Complaints & The DMCA Process
While it is not feasible for us to actively review the copyright status of every file we host, if we do run into an obvious infringement we will contact you and ask that you remove the infringing material and refrain from future copyright violations. Especially egregious infringement will usually result in immediately disablement without refund per our Terms of Service.

Some cases aren't quite as clear-cut, though, and the only time we find out about the possible infringement is when we are contacted by a 3rd party. In such cases, we require that the copyright holder - or someone acting in an official capacity on their behalf - submit a formal DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Notification to us. This process is described in DMCA Title II, also known as the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act.

In a nutshell, the process works like this:

The copyright holder submits a formal DMCA Notification of infringement, directing us to the allegedly infringing material. If the Notification meets all the requirements required by law, we will expeditiously remove (or require our customer to remove) that material. As the owner of the site, you may opt to file a formal DMCA Counter-Notification in order to contest the initial complaint. If we do not receive word from the complaining party within 10 business days that they have filed suit against you, we will then re-instate the content.
Term: DMCA Notification
A legal document filed under penalty of laws against perjury stating that the filing party is or represents the copyright holder, that they have a good faith belief that infringement is taking place, and identifying the infringing content. Again, this is a legal document with very specific requirements, so we recommend the help of an attorney in its drafting.

Note that it is extremely important to provide DreamHost with a full list of all infringing material when filing a DMCA Notification. If the list is ambiguous or overly broad, we may be unable to accept the DMCA Notification. A full list of specific URLs is preferred.
Term: DMCA Takedown
This is the process wherein DreamHost personnel ensure that the content specified in the complaining party's Notification is taken offline. Usually, we remove such material ourselves, though in some cases we may require the assistance of our customer to do so.
Term: DMCA Counter-Notification
A legal document filed under penalty of laws against perjury wherein the owner of the DreamHost-hosted site claims that they believe that the removal of the material should not have occurred (ie. it falls under Fair Use). Again, this is a legal document with very specific requirements, so we recommend the help of an attorney in its drafting.
Term: DMCA Reinstatement
This is the process wherein DreamHost personnel reinstate the content removed during the DMCA Takedown process. This occurs no sooner than 10 days after the initial Takedown. In some cases, the account owner's help may be needed to complete the reinstatement.
Note that this is a very basic generalization of the DMCA process, and the specifics of the law are beyond the scope of this document. With such matters, we highly recommend that you seek representation from a qualified intellectual property attorney. Please understand that as a neutral party, DreamHost is unable to provide legal advice.

DMCA Abuse & Misuse
From time to time, someone will attempt to blatantly misuse the DMCA process in order to remove content from someone else's site. Usually when this occurs, it is done censor content they find offensive or that is critical of them. Other times, it's simply a matter of a DMCA Notification being overly broad or ambiguous.

In any case, we will not accept a clearly invalid or overly broad or ambiguous DMCA Notification. The DMCA is not a tool with which to bully or censor our customers, and those who abuse the process open themselves up to significant legal liability.
Termination
DreamHost reserves the right to terminate any account found to be engaging in copyright infringement at any time, with or without prior notice. Multiple legally uncontested DMCA Notifications are typically considered evidence of infringement, and are usually grounds for termination as well.
Common questions & misunderstandings
There are a number of frequently asked questions we receive about our polices as they apply to copyright, some of which reflect common misunderstandings both about copyright law and our policies in particular. They are as follows:
"It didn't have a copyright symbol."
While the copyright symbol ("©") is often placed on copyrighted works, it is not required. All creative works are covered by copyright protection upon creation.
"I'm not making money off of it."
While the penalties for infringement with intent to profit can be significantly higher, you can still be found liable for infringement even if you do not profit from it.
"Nobody has complained, or is likely to."
You must still ensure that your usage is allowed, and this means obtaining permission from the copyright holder first. Whether or not they are likely to complaint, you should assume that they do not allow redistribution unless they actually say they do. In other words, the obligation is on you to find out if it's okay, not the copyright holder to search for infringements.
"This is just unlicensed/fansubbed anime."
A common misconception is that copyright law does not apply to creative works originating from foreign countries, such as Japanese anime or manga. This is not true - as both Japan and the USA are signatories of the
Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (along with 160 or so other countries), copyrights are recognized - and protected - even across international borders. This means that anime (including "fansubbed" anime), manga, etc. are subject to the very same protections under copyright law that other works enjoy.

For this reason, all of the usual copyright policies still apply.
"I didn't upload this - one of my site's visitors did."
You are, ultimately, responsible for any content associated with your account. We will take into consideration the fact that it's not always possible to prevent 3rd parties from uploading such material (particularly in message forums, wikis, etc), though it is expected that the operators of such sites will create and enforce policies to act quickly when such matters are reported, prevent ongoing abuse, etc.
Reporting copyright infringement to DreamHost
If you believe that your copyright is being infringed upon by a DreamHost customer, we must ask that you submit a formal DMCA Notification to us with a complete list of all allegedly infringing materials (direct URLs, please). A qualified intellectual property attorney can help you with the drafting of such a document.

Before sending this to us, though, please read the following very carefully:
"I'm not the copyright holder, but still want to report infringement."
If you see any obvious/blatant infringement going on, please let us know and we'll take a look. However, in all but the most blatant of cases (even in some cases that may seem like obvious infringement to you) we will still need to receive a DMCA Notification directly from the copyright holder or their official representative before we remove any content. If that's not you, the best thing to do is contact the copyright holder yourself and link them to this page so that they know how to get ahold of us directly.
"Do I really need an attorney? Lawyers are expensive!"
Indeed they are. After all, those yachts don't very well buy themselves, do they?

Technically, you don't need an attorney to write a DMCA Notification, though we highly recommend one. Sure, there is some up-front cost but if you don't know what you're doing you can find yourself in
serious legal hot water. As for cost: While filing a fully compliant DMCA Notification is complicated for most people, any decent intellectual property attorney can practically do it in their sleep, so it won't take long or cost much, as these things go, and is still a lot cheaper than being sued.

In any case, we will look over your DMCA Notification to make sure it meets all of the necessary legal requirements. If it doesn't, we will be unable take further action.
"Okay, so where do I send the DMCA Notification?"
If you've read the above and still feel that your copyright is being abused, you may send your DMCA Notification to the following email address:

     abuse(at)dreamhost(dot)com

Please include it within the text of the message - not as an attachment.