Website operators may be protected from copyright infringement liability arising from hosted user content under a “safe harbor” provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA safe harbor includes a requirement that website operators appoint an agent with the Copyright Office to receive notifications of infringement claims.
The Copyright Office has launched a new online system for the appointment of agents under the DMCA. The new system launches January 1, 2018, and any agent appointments made under the previous system will become invalid. New agent appointments must be made electronically via the new Copyright Office electronic system. If you previously filed an agent designation with the Copyright Office, you must refile the designation on the new electronic system.
What does the DMCA safe harbor do?
The DMCA provides a safe harbor from copyright infringement liability for online service providers (OSPs). An OSP, for example, includes websites that host user information or that allow users to post or store materials on their systems. The DMCA’s safe harbor provision allows for a notice-and-takedown system that legally protect hosts and OSPs from copyright infringement liability arising from user content. In order to qualify for the safe harbor provision, an OSP must meet several requirements, including publicly posting (and designating) a DMCA agent. Pursuant to 37 C.F.R. § 201.38 passed in 2016, the U.S. Copyright Office replaced the paper-based system with an electronic filing system.
What Does This Mean for Service Providers?
As part of the transition to the new electronic filing system, prior filed designated agents under the old system will cease to be effective after December 31, 2017. In order to maintain protection under the safe harbor provisions set forth in the Copyright Act, OSPs must re-register its DMCA agent via the new electronic registration system prior to this date.
What Should Service Providers Do?
Confirm whether you have recorded a designated agent with the Copyright Office. If you’re not sure whether your company has recorded a DMCA agent with the Copyright Office or if you’ve filed under the new electronic system, you can check the records here. If your company does not appear on this list, you should register and login to manage and record a designated agent to receive DMCA takedown requests. You must do this prior to December 31, 2017.