Copyright Question

I am thinking of getting a DreamHost account, and I have a question related to how copyright protection is enforced. Before you go running off thinking I’m trying to run an illegal website, that’s not what I’m asking.

What I’m asking is, in addition to standard website files and pages, and so forth, is it possible to backup files, some of which may be somewhat copyrighted?

I realize that if I made them available to the general public, it would not be permissible, but what if I wanted to backup a few songs in my non-html folder? Or maybe, upload a backup of a Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 “computer”? For instance, my Windows 98SE installation that I run in Virtual PC to enable me to run 16-bit applications, even though I run Windows Vista…

Case in point really, is it OK to host copyrighted files as long as they are not publicly accessible via HTTP, and I’m not giving out my FTP password, etc, to enable them to be downloaded.

I read through the Wiki, and the only mention of “copyrighted” was in the Files Forever post, so I decided I’d take it to the forums, then if necessary, email DreamHost and ask them up front.


You can’t make them available to everyone.
It must be private (with password for instance) to be like your files on your computer.

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Do you want them web-accessible or just accessible to you via sftp or the like? If the latter, you can just create a directory outside of any of your web roots and keep the files there. You will then be able to access them whenever you have ftp/sftp access.

This way, there is no question that the files are being distributed by you, since they’re not accessible to the web server (well, sort of, since they are accessible through scripts and such).

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Right, so what you guys are basically saying, is what I was saying… so you’re sure then, it’s alright to host copyrighted stuff, provided it’s not in an HTTP folder… right?

That being said, it would be a folder like /home/user/stuff/ rather than /home/user/public_html/stuff/. In this case, it is alright by the TOS to upload copyrighted files?


[quote]Right, so what you guys are basically saying, is what I was saying… so you’re sure then, it’s alright to host copyrighted stuff, provided it’s not in an HTTP folder… right?
Nope. Read this. It makes things more clear than the ToS.

I just think that if you are going to store backups of copyrighted material that you legally own and are allowed to back up, that you should do so in a folder that is not directly accessible via http. I also think you are least likely to have to go through the trouble to explain your situation that way.

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You have been given some good information here by the other responders, but I think you might be missing the point in a couple of ways. :wink:

That kind of qualification doesn’t make a log of sense to me …if it is subject to copyright protection and you do not have the right to make a copy of it, irrespective of where you ultimately store it, or whether you make it available to others, it is “illegally copied” - I don’t get the “somewhat” part. Sure, we are getting near “holy war” territory here, and there are many who argue the “law” is not “right”, but the way the law sits now in the United states (and most other Berne Convention signatories) a “copy” that you do not have the legal right to make is “illegal”

What are you asking? Does the Windows9SE EULA allow you to copy and “backup” or archive it? What are your legal “rights” in “backing up” those songs? It seems that you are asking if it is “OK” to store your own “illegally copied” files on DH’s server as long as you don’t distribute them. Note from the Abuse Center that Lensman linked you to:

“Term: Storage
For the purposes of our policies, ‘storage’ involves the storage of copyrighted material that was obtained unlawfully. So, if you use BitTorrent or some other tool from your own computer to illegally obtain a DVD rip and then store a copy under your DreamHost account (even if it’s not being re-distributed), such activity would be prohibited.”

Actually, I think that first sentence is pretty clear, and the second sentence lists one example of prohibited activity that is essentially the same as what you are proposing.

Reading the first sentence above literally, the second sentence might also be written (or an additional clarification of that first sentence might read):

“So, if you illegally create a copy of a song, or a software program, and then store a copy under your DreamHost account (even if it’s not being re-distributed), such activity would be prohibited.”

You might also ask yourself how the kind of “storage” or “backup” usage you are describing relates to the TOS section regarding “Lawful Purpose”:


  1. Customer may only use DreamHost Web Hosting’s Server for lawful purpose. Transmission of any material in violation of any Country, Federal, State or Local regulation is prohibited. To this effect, child pornography is strictly prohibited as well as housing any copyrighted information (to which the customer does not hold the copyright) on DreamHost Web Hosting’s Server."

I’d take special note of the words “transmission” and “housing”, and note that that neither of those terms imply “distribution”, though they do imply “uploading to or from” and “storing”. :wink:

It seems to me that the sections of the TOS and the Abuse Center documentation make it pretty clear that doing what you describe is prohibited. :frowning:

Now, I may be completely wrong on all of this - and some of the other answers you have received here may also be wrong. I strongly suggest ,if you really want the authoritative answer, you write with your question and see what they say. If they do not intend to allow such “storage”, I think it is better to know that now than to find yourself protesting, “But, they told me in the forum it was probably OK!”, when/if you find your account suspended or terminated.

If it were me, I wouldn’t chance it - I can’t see any advantage to me to use the storage that way; it’s easy enough to burn a backup DVD or CD, and that meets my purposes just fine.

Again, why trust anything you read here? Just write DreamHost and ask them straight-out.


Thanks for the detailed response, rlparker. Well, I see what you’re saying, I hadn’t noticed that page! Thanks for pointing it out.

The only thing I’m not clear on there, is it keeps saying something to the extent of “if the files were illegally obtained”, so it comes down to whether you can legally back them up I guess. What if the files were legally obtained? (ie, not pirated). As far as I know, in most cases, you are allowed to make one backup copy of your media (software, etc). However, I’m not sure if that would apply to backing it up on the Internet, since that seems to be somewhat different territory legally than a CDR is.

Well, I would email DH, except you need to have an account first, which I haven’t gotten just yet… working on it.


You are more than welcome, and I am not sure at all that I have interpreted DreamHost’s position correctly on this. You bring up some good points and valid questions about the 'legality" of some types of backups - and I don’t think there are really simple answers for some of those questions - particularly in a “general” sense.

I’m not trying to discourage you at all; I just don’t know that the issue is all that clear without getting some detailed input fro DreamHost.

I’ll bet that either the or the contact form might get you a response to your questions even though you are not yet a customer! :slight_smile:


As a happy Dreamhost customer of 7 months, I assumed that legal backups of copyrighted material are allowed to be stored, but not distributed, on a Dreamhost server. But rlparker brings up some good points, which convinces me that Dreamhost isn’t exactly clear on the issue.

It is worth considering that Dreamhost encourages the backup of copyrighted materials on their servers by their recent partnership with Bandwagon. I’m not a Bandwagon user, but, as I understand the service, Bandwagon is a tool that allows you to backup your iTunes music easily to an ftp server, such as Dreamhost. Since your iTunes library probably contains copyrighted music, this Dreamhost-approved use of their servers does exactly what you are wanting to do.

When you hear back from Dreamhost on this question, please post the answer here for our benefit. I would like to know what they have to say. In my opinion, Dreamhost needs to update their TOS to clarify this issue.

That is a really good point, and I agree completely with your analysis of that situation.

Again, I agree completely; as the TOS now stands, it is difficult to know exactly what is, or is not, allowed. :wink: