What is a DMCA Complaint?

Key Summary: A DMCA Complaint is a complaint that is submitted against another person or entity who is using copyrighted content that belongs to someone else.

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which came into effect on October 28, 1998. It was passed as an amendment to the Copyright Act of 1976, in order to comply with the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which were adopted at the WIPO Diplomatic Conference in December 1996.

The purpose of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA for short, is to protect the rights of copyrighted works and their authors. Basically, it aims to stop people from copying works or misusing other people’s content properties. The original Copyright Act was written with published or copyrighted works in mind. However, with the rise of the internet, where it is so much easier to copy someone else’s work and pass it off as one's own, newer laws needed to be introduced to protect this new medium of content. There is what gave birth to the DMCA.

A DMCA Complaint is exactly what it sounds like. It is a complaint that is submitted against another person or entity who is using content that does not belong to them, and is using it without permission from the creator and/or owner, or is using it in a manner that was not intended by the creator and/or owner.

If one finds that someone else is using or misusing their content, they can try to talk to that person, reason with them and ask them to stop. In many cases, people don’t realize that they are infringing on someone else’s rights. However, if that doesn’t work, then one can submit a DMCA complaint against them alleging that they are using the work without permission, or that they are misusing it.

These complaints can be submitted to their web hosting company, who can either remove the copyrighted content themselves, or force the person to remove the content. One can also submit a complaint to the authorities that are tasked with addressing and handling DMCA issues and complaints. There are also numerous content protection services companies that aim to help one deal with copyright problems, including DMCA. These companies provide a twofold service. A person can either hire them to help protect their content, so that others may not be able to misuse the content, or they can hire them to deal with a copyright infringement. One can also submit the DMCA complaint to them, and for a price they will have the misused content taken down.

To make the complaint valid one must provide proof that they created the content, that they own it, and that the infringer is using it without their permission. If they cannot provide proof, chances are that the complaint may be invalidated and that the infringer may get away with misusing the content.

If a DMCA complaint is ineffective in removing the content, or it fails for whatever reason, there still may be other avenues that one can utilize; that is providing one can prove that they own the content in question and that the other party is misusing it. Here they have the option of hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit against the perpetrator.

It should be noted that while DMCA is an American Law and is technically in effect only in America, in reality it has international coverage. Firstly, DMCA complies with the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, both of which are international treaties. Secondly, the original content owner or creator may be situated in the US, in which case his content is covered under DMCA. Thirdly, there are other internet copyrights or Intellectual Property Copyright processes within most countries throughout the world that are similar to DMCA.



Stands for

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Full title

To amend title 17, United States Code, to implement the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty and Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and for other purposes

Also known as

the WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act

Type of

Copyright Law


Protects rights of copyrighted works and their authors.


October 28, 1998


The Copyright Act of 1976

Complies with

the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty

Reference: Wikipedia, DMCA, WhatIs, EFF, Automattic
Image Courtesy: labnol.org

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