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Is an ISP liable for users’ actions in regards to copyright?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2021 | Copyright Law

In general, your internet service provider is not liable if you commit a copyright infringement just because it is providing you with a service that allows you to commit the act. You also cannot sue an ISP for it having a user who commits copyright infringement in most cases.

FindLaw explains that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act removes ISP liability for its users’ actions in many cases, but there are some exceptions. In some situations, an ISP may act in a way to help or further a user’s ability to use copyrighted material in an illegal manner, which would not allow the ISP to seek protection under the DMCA.

Contributory infringement

Contributory infringement on the part of an ISP is when the provider helps or assists someone in committing copyright infringement. The ISP knows what is happening and does nothing to stop it under this type of liability.

Vicarious liability

An ISP may be liable for copyright infringement if it receives a financial benefit from the action. In this situation, the ISP must also have control over you and your activity. It is often difficult to prove this type of liability because it is hard to show the ISP has control over users’ actions unless there is specific language in its terms of service agreement.

Direct infringement

ISPs cannot benefit financially from knowingly hosting copyrighted material that is violating copyright law. This type of infringement almost never happens because it is an obvious breach of copyright laws that will carry consequences. In addition, it is pretty easy to prove and almost impossible to defend against.