Internet service providers keen on preserving the safe harbor provisions contained in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) should take note: the U.S. Copyright Office has developed an online system for designating agents for purposes of notification of potential copyright violations. The online system launched December 1, 2016 & service providers must register their agents through the new on-line system before the end of 2017. After that time, any designations submitted before the launch of the on-line system will expire and become invalid, which could result in a service provider losing the safe harbor protections.

Previously, agent designations were submitted to the Copyright Office in paper form. The Copyright Office would then make those forms available through an online index of internet service providers. The paper-generated directory contains significant inaccuracies and outdated information. Under the new system, DMCA agents are required to register through the online system, and update their contact information to renew their designations at least every three years at dmca.copyright.gov/login.html. The renewal requirement was designed to help ensure that the directory is up to date with accurate information. The agent designation information will be used to create an on-line searchable database at dmca.copyright.gov.

The DMCA’s safe harbor provision, 17 U.S.C. § 512, protects service providers – which range from website hosting companies to mom-and-pop retail sites – from liability for monetary damages for the infringing activities of their users and other third parties on the internet, so long as the service provider meets certain conditions, such as providing “notice and takedown” procedures that give copyright holders a quick and easy way to notify websites that they may be hosting infringing material posted by third parties, and designating an agent to receive such notices.

Service providers have until December 31, 2017, to migrate their DMCA agent designation to the new system. Detailed information about the new system is available on the Copyright Office’s website.