Don’t ring in the New Year before you take a few quick steps to ensure there is no lapse in your safeharbor protections provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
So what is this all about? Nonprofits, and those we engage with, post tons of content on our websites and social media channels. Much of this content belongs to others or could be copyrighted material. While our intention is certainly not to violate any copyright protections, you need to be wary of the army of copyright trolls — both algorithm-aided humans and bots — that scour the internet looking for minor and most often accidental copyright infractions. These stinkers then threaten expensive lawsuits, most often settling for several hundred to several thousand dollars. Although morally suspect, this practice is somewhat legal and there are also very legitimate reasons for content owners to protect their intellectual property. Luckily, DMCA affords us certain protections so long as we take some simple and concrete steps highlighted in this instructional article authored by good folks at Adler and Colvin.
So, why does this matter? It goes without saying the environment is really tough right now for most nonprofits. Our constituents are squeezed more than ever, federal funds and protections are being rolled back at a sweeping scale, income inequality is worse than ever, robots are better than humans are at an ever-growing number of jobs, most of us can neither afford home ownership nor rent, we’re likely past the tipping point with climate change, in the midst of the world’s sixth mass extinction, and looming changes to the tax code threaten to obliterate tax incentives for regular folks that support community nonprofits. I’m probably just scraping the surface. So, I guess this isn’t comparatively important at all but ... as a fellow board member of Active Living By Design recently shared with me, “we have to keep going. What other choice do we have?” That’s a quote from his 95 year old grandmother who has seen and experienced more than most and I think sums up how many of us must rationalize our work and existence given what we and our constituents face.
Part of keeping going means doing big things like developing collaborative relationships where we leverage our respective core competencies to support each other and also taking many small steps to cover our organizational butts. So, whether you’re a backbone organization supporting dozens of charitable endeavors or an independent shop, please give this DMCA matter a few hours of attention by checking out the Adler & Colvin article linked above and follow their guidance. It can save you thousands of dollars and distracting headaches down the road.