Under United States law, an Internet company may be found liable for copyright infringement by user generated content unless the company registers a "designated agent" with the United States Copyright Office. New online procedures make such registration easier for non-U.S. companies. Companies that have already registered a designated agent should be aware that they are required to register again using the new system before December 31, 2017.

Background & Analysis

In certain situations, Internet companies may be held liable for copyright infringement by content uploaded by their users. United States law provides a "safe harbor" for such companies: a company that satisfies all the requirements of the "safe harbor" will not be held liable for copyright infringement by such user content. The requirements of the safe harbor include an obligation to expeditiously take down content once the Internet company is notified that the content is infringing, and an obligation to provide contact information so that a copyright holder can notify the Internet company of the presence of the infringing content.

Another requirement often overlooked by Israeli companies is an obligation to register a "designated agent" with the United States Copyright Office. The Copyright Office makes all contact information for such designated agents available online. The purpose of registering the designated agent is so that a copyright owner will be able to quickly find the appropriate contact information in order to notify the Internet company of the presence of infringing material. Companies that fail to register a designated agent with the Copyright Office can potentially be held liable for copyright infringement by user content.

Registration of a designated agent is currently performed by sending the registration form through physical mail, and making payment of a registration fee. Payment is to be made by money order or check drawn on a United States bank. This awkward payment process is often not straightforward for Israeli companies.

Final regulations recently issued by the U.S. Copyright Office now provide that registration of a designated agent can be performed online as of December 1, 2016, and that fees can be paid through the online United States government payment system at pay.gov. The registration fees with the new system have been substantially lowered (from $105 to $6). Israeli companies should find the new system substantially easier to use. Internet companies that have previously registered a designated agent should be aware that the final regulations require that such agents be registered again using the new system prior to December 31, 2017.