Monday, November 9, 2009

Contributory copyright infringement

Many webmasters seem to think it's O.K. to post links to copyright infringing files as long as the files are not hosted on the webmaster's own website, and that no culpability for infringing a copyright can be applied to them since they did not actually provide the material themselves. This is sort of like thinking a person can provide directions to a murderer on how to find their victim, knowing exactly what the murder's intent is, but that the person would not in any way be liable for the resulting crime.

There is a term often applied to assisting or encouraging others to engage in copyright infringement, and that term is "contributory copyright infringement," or simply, "contributory infringement." A description of what contributory infringement is and how it applies is available on a webpage from Chilling Effects.

In every country I know of, knowingly posting links to copyright infringing material, whether the material is hosted on a webmaster's own website or not, is an act of copyright infringement. Because of this, webmasters should not think that it is acceptable to start pirate websites as long as they are linking to off-site servers. If caught, at the very best you or your web host might receive a DMCA takedown notice, or your country's equivalent if you are not in the United States. At the worst, you can be sued or possibly imprisoned depending on your country's laws.

If you run a pirate website, shut it down and use your skills for something more legitimate. Your bank account will thank you for not having to drain it during an expensive lawsuit.

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