As part of the ongoing efforts to modernize its practices, the U.S. Copyright Office has issued new regulations requiring Internet service providers wishing to designate an agent for notification of claimed infringement to do so electronically through the Copyright Office’s new online registration system, which will replace its paper-based system.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) provides safe harbors to Internet service providers by limiting their liability for copyright infringement based on the following categories of conduct: 1) transitory communications where the provider acts merely as a data conduit, transmitting information at someone else’s request; 2) system caching; 3) storage of information on systems or networks at the direction of users; and 4) referring or linking users to sites that contain infringing material with information location tools. Failure to comply with the safe harbor provisions can expose service providers to liability for monetary, injunctive or equitable relief.

In order to qualify for safe harbor protection, a service provider must:

  • Designate an agent to receive notifications of claimed infringement with the U.S. Copyright Office, and make the name, address, phone number, and email address of the agent available on its website in a location accessible to the public; and
  • Act expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the infringing material upon notification of claimed infringement.

The safe harbor and notice-and-takedown provisions of the DMCA were intended to foster the growth of the Internet and create a system where copyright owners and service providers cooperate to detect and address infringements.

Under the regulations, any service provider that designated an agent prior to December 1, 2016, must submit a new designation electronically by December 31, 2017 in order to keep its designation active. During the transition period from December 1, 2016, through December 31, 2017, the Copyright Office will maintain one directory of paper designations made under the prior interim regulations, and another directory of designations made under the new online system. To designate an agent through the online registration system, service providers must first create a DMCA Designated Agent Registration Account. The Copyright Office’s official fee for designating an agent has been reduced from $105 to $6 per service provider.