Content Uploads by Members: How to Protect Against Copyright Infringement (beyond the ToS)?

(Tobijohnson Consultant) #1

We're a new private professional community practice and would like to allow members to share content, if we can find a way. We've got a solid ToS that warns against uploading IP without permission.  However, we've already had to remove a few pieces of content that are clearly owned by someone and did not include a Creative Commons License, and we've since stopped allowing content uploads for the time being.

If things are posted on public sites (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare), then one can assume it's fair game, but what about other content?

Is anyone allowing members to either upload or link to other content (specifically, documents)?  How are you dealing with it to protect your (and your members') liability?

THX for any wisdom you can share.  

Legal terms for community content
(Bas van Leeuwen) #2

To keep yourself safe, I'd only allow linking/embedding and not the uploading of any materials.

As long as you are taking action when you become aware of the content, in general you should be safe under the safe harbour principles\


(Darren Gough) #3

We had a lot of this happen to my community.

My general rule of thumb here, as I learnt, is that providing you've done everything that could reasonably be expected to warn people, get them to agree to it in the Rules and remove copyrighted material when notified, don't worry yourself unduly.

The worst that really ever happened to us was notification to remove. Occasionally these came with unpleasant lawyer letters but they're designed mainly to scare, not enforce legal proceedings.

If a member is constantly, and systematically, breaking this rule and won't adhere to warnings, kick them off and make it very clear it's causing you a problem and is to protect the site/community.

(Tobijohnson Consultant) #4

Thanks, guys.  Very helpful. If we only allow linking, then we're assuming the content owner is making it public, yes?  Although this could be "hidden" PDF. 

Do we need to ascertain from users that they have permission to share -- or, just make it clear they need to get permission in our user guide, onboarding, and ToS and leave it to the member?

(Bas van Leeuwen) #5

If you put it in the ToS, then you are fine (as long as you remove on request).

(Ben) #6

Echoing the advice provided here. Assuming your organization is based in the US, you are covered by the safe harbor provision in the DMCA, so you should warn users that uploading copyrighted materials is not permitted, and honor all takedown requests in a timely manner. Prohibiting uploads by users is unnecessarily restrictive.

(Janet Swisher) #7

If things are posted on public sites (e.g., YouTube, Vimeo, SlideShare), then one can assume it's fair game [...]

Actually no. Content on those sites are subject to the ToS of those sites, which for example may allow downloading for personal use, but not necessarily re-uploading to other sites.

It sounds like you have an opportunity for educating your community. You could write a post along the lines of:

Hey folks, we've temporarily disabled the upload feature because we noticed several instances of people uploading things that they didn't have permission to use. This can be a confusing aspect of Internet life, because many people are so casual about resharing content on social networks like Facebook. But as [our type of] professionals, we need to be more careful because [relevant reason]. Here are some resources about how to tell whether something can be reshared: [links]. Here are some examples of how this applies in our community: [relevant positive and negative examples]. We plan to apply these principles when the upload feature is re-enabled, as described in the community ToS. What do you think about this? Are there cases or situations that might come up that we haven't thought of?