Obliterating Scrapers pt 5: The Hosting DMCA

The last thing any hosting provider wants is to get into a legal dispute over your $5 or $10 monthly service fee.  In fact, shared hosting only really works because the hosting provider can quickly and easily get rid of anyone who causes problems on their machines.  Be sure to check through the terms you agreed to when you signed up, because you’re probably in the same situation with your own hosts.

That’s cool though, because most of us won’t intentionally breach the terms of the agreement or break the law.  While its one thing to grab some pictures or content as a supplement to your articles even if you aren’t sure how they’re licensed, its something else entirely to make your entire online business plan rely on a fresh stream of someone else’s work.

And if all else has failed and you have not been able to stop the scrapers stealing your content, the final step will be to let the hosting provider know exactly what’s going on with a DMCA notification very similar to the ones sent out to advertisers and search engines.

Just run a DNS lookup for the offending domain, and you’ll know at the very least who is hosting it.

Once you’ve got the host’s name, you’ll need to figure out if they’re actually located in the United States or another country with similar laws to the DMCA.  If they’re in a jurisdiction that cares, just send them a simple email notifying them of the infringement and sit back for your scraper to vanish.

Playing with Fire

Now, is it actually a good idea to rely on the DMCA every time there is a minor infringement of your copyright?  I would basically say no:  the law seems to create as many liabilities for small content publishers as it manages to protect us from.

The EFF agrees that things are a bit too easily manipulated:

The DMCA has been criticized for making it too easy for copyright owners to encourage website owners to take down allegedly infringing content and links which may in fact not be infringing. When website owners receive a takedown notice it is in their interest not to challenge it, even if it is not clear if infringement is taking place, because if the potentially infringing content is taken down the website will not be held liable.

Then again, sometimes a scraper is so stubborn and destructive to your own income that you might not have any choice left! In those cases, these sorts of extreme actions may be warranted after all, but it should not be used except as a last resort.

Luckily, my own scraping nemesis managed to delete all of the copied content long before this step came around – and if you remind them about your end-game choices in the polite email, they will probably be smart enough to avoid the entire legal mess you have a right to create.

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