Product Updates

How Does a HackerRank DMCA Takedown Work?

Written By Darshan Suresh | December 21, 2022

DMCA Takedowns. What are they? Why is HackerRank emailing me about one? And do I really have to remember another acronym? 

DMCA is a controversial topic in the developer community, as it can conflict with the free and open sharing of code that is so fundamental to the work we do as developers. As important as these values are, we here at HackerRank also believe that a soundly developed DMCA policy for our coding questions is vital. It’s the best way to ensure that all developers have an equal shot at landing job opportunities that match their unique skill sets and professional aspirations.

In this article, we break down the basics of DMCA, HackerRank’s DMCA policy, and how the whole process works.

What’s a DMCA Takedown?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that provides a legal framework for how copyright owners, online service providers, and users engage with copyrighted content. DMCA is a complex piece of legislation, but fundamentally, it established two key components:

  1. It established “safe-harbor protections for online service providers if their users engage in copyright infringement.” 
  2. It created a “notice-and-takedown system” which gives the copyright owner the ability to inform online service providers about a potential violation and request that they remove content from their site if it was used without permission. This is known as a DMCA takedown.

Failure to comply with the takedown notice waives the service provider’s right to safe harbor protection from infringement liability. This means the copyright holder can hold the service provider legally accountable.

HackerRank’s DMCA Principles

HackerRank’s mission is to accelerate the world’s innovation by focusing hiring decisions on skill, not pedigree. We do so by giving all developers the opportunity to showcase their skills in a fair and equitable testing environment. Each year, millions of developers solve problems during a HackerRank screening assessment or coding interview. The integrity of the questions that comprise these tests is critical for developers and employers to feel confident in their fairness and efficacy. 

DMCA isn’t a perfect system, and we recognize there are some drawbacks to pursuing a takedown policy. However, we’ve found that a proactive DMCA policy is the best approach for combating plagiarism, ensuring the efficacy of our tests, and providing a fair way for all developers to demonstrate their skills.

Accordingly, our larger DMCA approach centers on: 

  • Ensuring a fair hiring opportunity for every developer by reducing plagiarism and upholding question integrity.
  • Conducting an intensive manual review process to validate claims, with particular care taken to protect open source and developer communities from mistaken requests. 

Question leaks compromise the integrity of the test questions, making it difficult for employers to identify which developers have the strongest technical skills. To ensure that all developers get a fair shot at job opportunities, HackerRank has to uphold our question integrity by monitoring and containing leaked questions through DMCA takedowns.

However, we only send a DMCA takedown notice once we’ve conducted a diligent validation process and considered how the decision impacts developer communities. If the findings of our review are inconclusive, we err on the side of caution and refrain from issuing a notice.

HackerRank’s DMCA Policy

HackerRank has rebuilt its DMCA policy with a new prioritization process that ensures each takedown benefits the developer community and upholds assessment integrity while mitigating false positives. In the past, our policy was to take down any copied content that could be considered a violation of our copyright. We recognize that this was an incomplete approach, and our new DMCA policy combines automated detection with a thorough manual review process. First, our online detection system proactively identifies leaked questions on the internet. Then, we manually review every detection on a case-by-case basis. 

HackerRank’s DMCA takedowns follow a four-step process of identification, prioritization, manual review, and communication.

Identification:

  • HackerRank actively monitors for leaked content by using automation to detect infringing material. 
  • We then record the domain, question ID, and question creation date of each flagged URL.

Prioritization:

HackerRank prioritizes its DMCA responses based on the severity of the suspected breach and the type of domain, in addition to a range of other factors. We prioritize the takedown of pages that possess one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Web pages that flagrantly post screenshots and/or verbatim copies of question text of regularly used questions.
  • Web pages that, in reposting content, also infringe on the company’s logo and name.
  • For-profit domains such as course or training websites that use HackerRank questions to drive transactions or user signups.
  • Content that copies the default code stubs provided with each question. 

HackerRank deprioritizes takedowns of pages created by developer communities which publish content and developer-created solutions for learning and educational purposes.

Review:

  • HackerRank’s product content team conducts manual, in-house reviews of every flagged URL to ensure that we make no false positives.
  • Multiple reviewers assess each URL to ensure a fair and accurate review process.
  • If we identify a false positive, we mark the question as not leaked and whitelist the URLs.
  • If we determine that a case does violate HackerRank’s copyright and DMCA policy, we advance the content to the next stage. 

Communication:

  • If a page warrants a takedown, HackerRank sends a DMCA notice to the online service provider.
  • The notice will always contain the following:
    • Why the recipient is receiving the notice
    • How to respond to the notice
    • The required response timeline 
    • How to dispute a DMCA takedown

How to Respond to a HackerRank DMCA Takedown

When HackerRank sends a takedown notice, we will always include detailed instructions on how to respond to the notice. There are two potential courses of action:

Complying with the Takedown Notice

If HackerRank has directly contacted you with a takedown notice, we ask that you confirm in writing within fourteen days that you will comply with the request. If a domain has contacted you about a takedown notice from HackerRank, their policy will apply. You’ll then need to remove the content from your website. HackerRank will provide you with detailed documentation on the content and URLs we’d like you to remove.

Disputing a DMCA Takedown

We also recognize that DMCA is a complex issue and there may be cases where we’ve made a mistake. We encourage website owners that feel the takedown request is unfair or incorrect to dispute the DMCA notice. If you think we’ve made a mistake, you can reply back to the email or reach us at content-dmca@hackerrank.com. We’ll reevaluate the situation and retract our notice if we’ve made a mistake. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any HackerRank questions that I can repost or share?

HackerRank has a community platform for developers to learn and practice coding. The thousands of questions there are publicly available and we encourage developers to repost these questions and share their solutions. You’ll never receive a DMCA notice for a question from our community platform. Each question also has a discussion forum where developers can discuss their approaches to the problem. 

Since I’m the creator of the solution code, shouldn’t I be able to share it?

If you’ve created an original solution to a HackerRank question, you’re free to share the code that you have written. However, we ask that you refrain from sharing our logo, the default code stubs, and the question itself.

I received a takedown notice from HackerRank and think it’s wrong. What should I do? 

You can dispute a DMCA takedown by replying to the email notice. Alternatively, you can reach us at content-dmca@hackerrank.com.

I’m a HackerRank customer and one of my questions leaked. Who should I contact?

If you’re a customer and you’re looking for support on DMCA, you can reach our Content Team at content-dmca@hackerrank.com.

I still have questions about DMCA. Where should I go?

We recommend the following resources for learning more about DMCA:

What Is ChatGPT? And What Does It Mean for Technical Hiring?