As part of a housekeeping effort, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a final rule that changes the designated agent mechanism protecting online service providers from certain copyright infringement liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). Companies will now have to re-register every three years, and existing registrations will cease to be valid by the end of next year.

By designating an agent to receive DMCA takedown requests, online service providers can receive protection from copyright infringement liability for user-generated content so long as the company doesn’t know about the infringement, financially benefit from the infringement, and quickly takes down the infringing content upon notification. Under the old rule, an online service provider only had to register by paper with the Copyright Office once and pay a one-time fee to take advantage of the safe harbor indefinitely. This one-time approach was easy and popular, but lead to a substantial amount of inaccurate or outdated designated agent information within the Office’s agent directory.

Under the final rule, registration and designation will expire every three years, necessitating periodic re-registration. For companies with existing registrations, the changes in the final rule require online service providers to re-register via an online electronic registration system between now and December 31, 2017 to continue taking advantage of the DMCA safe harbor. If companies fail to re-register by the end of 2017, their initial registration will expire and become invalid.

Critically for the integrity of agent contact information, the final rule also clarifies that online service providers must ensure that designation information they provide on their websites match the registration filing in the Copyright Office and is kept up-to-date. If a provider must amend the designated agent prior to the end of the three year renewal period, the online service provider will need to re-register, which resets the three-year period. As part of the change, the Copyright Office significantly reduced the registration fee from $105 to $6.

The new electronic registration system is open and accepting filings.