How can I protect my self legally from illegal content from users on my website?


I am building a web app where users will be able to add content to it. Pictures, texte, video, etc.

I was wandering what would happen if a user puts something illegal. Am I responsable? Or is there a way for me/business to have some legal protection?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Legal Copyright Trademark

asked Oct 19 '11 at 12:35
Jean Nicolas Boulay Desjardins
162 points
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2 Answers


I wrote an answer to a similar question over on Quora, but here's the main point:

In the United States, there's a giant piece of legislation called the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. This contains all of the basic legal concepts that are used to punish digital copyright infringment.

While drafting the bill, legislators recognized that there are many large internet services that allow for the storage of user-uploaded content (YouTube, SoundCloud, MediaFire, etc.) and that these services would face an impossibly difficult game of cat-and-mouse if they would be liable for any infringing content that a user uploaded to their service. They'd essentially have to shut down to ensure nothing illegal was ever uploaded to their servers. This would stifle innovation on the internet and "chill" free speech.

So they added a provision known as the "Safe Harbor Clause ".

The safe harbor clause addresses that by saying, "Look, we understand users might try to upload material that they don't have rights to, and it's not really fair to penalize you for the actions of your users, even though the infringing content is now sitting on your servers."

The safe harbor clause proscribes a series of steps that services must follow in order to qualify for the safe harbor provision. As long as your service follows these steps, you should be immune from any litigation due to any infringing content on your site:

  • designate and publicize an agent to handle all DMCA take-down requests
  • remove any infringing content (almost) immediately upon receiving a take-down request
  • institute a "repeat infringer" policy to track and remove users whose posts continually receive take-down requests

Terms of service can protect you from your users, but they won't protect you from publishers seeking damages for copyright infringement. There's tons of great, free information here.

I am not a lawyer.

answered Oct 19 '11 at 13:32
Hartley Brody
1,317 points
  • "designate and publicize an agent to handle all DMCA take-down requests" - Where do I get one? – Jean Nicolas Boulay Desjardins 12 years ago
  •'s just a person at your business (could be you) that responds to requests. You just need to post an email address, fax, etc where you can be reached somewhere where it can be found. – Hartley Brody 12 years ago
  • Do I need to register my "agent" somewhere? – Jean Nicolas Boulay Desjardins 12 years ago
  • No, the "agent" thing it just legalese for "a person who handles this stuff". If you're worried about copyright infringement, I'd put a link somewhere in the footer of your site that goes to a page that lists basic contact information for this person. Try Googling "DMCA takedown request" – Hartley Brody 12 years ago


I was running an application like this. Well the first thing you have to do is to have a well written Terms and Conditions page that your users must aggree on sign up. Here you may make it clear that you as a company you are not responsible and anything that violates your terms will be deleted.

But because people are mean I suggest you to approve any inputs rather auto-publishing.

Also, you may make use of IP address and allow registration only to "real" people.

answered Oct 19 '11 at 13:07
125 points
  • I use recaptcha to verify that they are humans. – Jean Nicolas Boulay Desjardins 12 years ago

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