As a creator of a FLOSS project, what do I need to know about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

As an example, Github is often forced to remove sites based on DMCA requests. The requests are posted at https://github.com/github/dmca and make for some interesting reading.

Many of the take-down requests are based purely on piracy of source code, but this one required that an open source project be taken down because it enabled piracy of copyrighted assets (via BitTorrent).

This was part of the campaign by the MPAA to shut down "Popcorn Time", a campaign which apparently has not succeeded (as any search for "Popcorn time" in google will quickly show). But the original developers were forced to close out their project, despite this comment on their site

Popcorn Time as a project is legal. We checked. Four Times.

What lessons do FLOSS developers need to take away from this? Which sections of the DMCA are most likely to bite them?

Note that this question, and stack exchange in general, is not encouraging or supporting piracy. But the DMCA is often used for other purposes (such as stifling competition).

  • You don't need to know more than any other software developer.
    – Philipp
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:43

2 Answers 2


To prevent yourself from getting a DMCA takedown notice, you don't need to know more than any other software developer. Don't use sourcecode or assets which are not licensed to you. Also, don't piss off people who are so rich and powerful that they can hire far better lawyers than you, because in the US justice system, better lawyers can win cases even when the law is not on their side. The rules which apply to open source are no different than those which apply to proprietary software.

However, as an open source developer you can use the DMCA takedown notices yourself as a weapon to take down people who violate your license terms.


Mainly any time you copy copyrighted assets.

The reason why Popcorn Time did not get shut down is because they are very popular, and have a TON of money. This allows them to hire lawyers that the average person (such as you or I) could not afford.

So takeaway...

Unless you have lots of money, your most likely to get shutdown.

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