Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), certain kinds of online service providers are provided safe harbor from copyright infringement liability for content posted or stored by their users online. In order to qualify for the safe harbor protection, service providers must designate an agent to receive notifications of claimed copyright infringement and keep the designated agent contact information up to date. The contact information for the designated agent must be available to the public on the service provider’s website, and given to the U.S. Copyright Office.
The U.S. Copyright Office maintains a current directory of the agents that have been designated by service providers to receive notifications of claimed infringement. Since the DMCA’s enactment in 1998, service providers have designated their agents with the Copyright Office using a paper form, and the Copyright Office has made scanned copies of these filings available to the public by posting them on its website. But now, the Copyright Office is phasing out its old system of posting paper forms in the directory of designated agents, to enable service providers to more efficiently submit and keep their information updated, and to make it easier for the general public to search for designated agent information.
On November 1, 2016, the Copyright Office announced a new electronic system to designate and search for agents to receive notifications of claimed infringement, as required under the DMCA (17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(2)). The rule became effective, and the new online registration system launched, on December 1, 2016.
The fee to designate (or amend or resubmit) an agent under the new electronic system has dropped from $105 to only $6; however, service providers are now required to renew, amend, or resubmit their designations every three years from the last update.
The transition period from the paper system to the new online system will be ending soon, and any designation not made through the new electronic system will expire and become invalid on December 31, 2017. Up until that date, the paper-generated directory will still be searchable by the general public, but after that date, the general public will no longer be able to search the paper-generated directory.
Online service providers who have not made their designations through the new electronic system by the end of the year risk losing the safe harbor protections of the DMCA, potentially leaving them vulnerable to claims of copyright infringement.
You can find a list of frequently asked questions about the DMCA Designated Agent Directory at https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/faq.html. More information regarding the requirements for the new electronic system can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office’s website at https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/. From this page, you can also view video tutorials demonstrating how to use the system. For members of the general public, the link to search the Designated Agent Directory can also be found on this page.
*To see the DMCA’s definition of a “service provider” and other important terms and conditions relevant to the limitations on liability of service providers under the law, please see the full text of the DMCA by clicking here.
For more information contact Patricia Ramsey Chronicle at 561.686.3307.