All companies that conduct business online should take note of a potential upcoming renewal deadline for the “safe harbor” from copyright infringement liability. Online service providers seeking safe harbor under 17 U.S.C. § 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)[1] must designate a copyright agent with the U.S. Copyright Office and renew that designation at least once every three years. Failure to do so will negate the online service provider’s ability to claim the safe harbor from copyright infringement liability under § 512(c). Many companies renewed their designations between December 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017 using the Copyright Office’s new electronic filing system. For those that did, the three-year renewal deadline may be approaching.

As we previously wrote, the U.S. Copyright Office recently implemented a new electronic system for the designation of copyright agents. This electronic system, which became effective December 1, 2016 and replaced the old paper-based system, is required to be used by all online service providers to designate copyright agents and take advantage of the safe harbor from copyright infringement liability under § 512(c).

For purposes of § 512, any entity that provides an online service (such as a website, email service, discussion forum, or chat room) generally would qualify as an online service provider. A copyright agent is typically the contact at the online service provider for receipt of the various notices provided under § 512, such as notices of copyright infringement.

Service providers that designated a copyright agent via the old paper-based system (i.e., prior to December 1, 2016) were required to submit a new designation through the electronic system by December 31, 2017 or their designation would expire and become invalid after December 31, 2017.[2]

Service providers must also renew their designation at least once every three years, either by amending it to correct relevant information or resubmitting it without amendment to confirm the designation’s continued accuracy.

For those that filed using the new electronic system (i.e., between December 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017) and have not renewed their designation since then, the three-year renewal deadline would fall between December 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020, depending on when the designation was originally registered with the Copyright Office. Failure to renew by the applicable deadline will prevent the service provider from claiming the safe harbor from copyright infringement liability established under § 512(c).

To check the effective date of your copyright agent designation, search the public directory of copyright agents here: https://dmca.copyright.gov/osp/, or log into your account here: https://dmca.copyright.gov/osp/login.html.