Alert: Website Owners Required to Take Action to Benefit From DMCA Safe Harbor

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Safe Harbor shields certain service providers from liability for copyright infringement committed by third-party users of their services.  For example, social media and newspaper sites are generally not liable for copyright infringement by their millions of users.

The DMCA notice-and-takedown system allows copyright holders to send notices to service providers specifying the location of allegedly infringing third-party material on their websites and, so long as the service provider “expeditiously” removes or disables access to such content, the DMCA protects the service provider from liability for infringement.  The DMCA requires each service provider wishing to avail itself of the Safe Harbor’s protections to designate an agent to receive these infringement notices, and to provide contact information for these designated agents on their websites as well as to the Copyright Office for inclusion in a searchable online directory.

The Copyright Office has replaced its directory of designated agents for receipt of DMCA notices of claimed infringement with a new electronic system.  In addition, the Copyright Office is making a number of changes to the rules for these designations, including: (1) requiring website operators and other “service providers” who used the old system to re-designate their agents through the new system before the end of 2017; (2) requiring periodic renewal of agent designations; (3) modifying the types of agents that can be designated; and (4) changing the fee structure to a $6 flat fee per designation, amendment and renewal.

If you operate a website that allows users to post comments or other material, if you have previously registered a Designated Agent with the Copyright Office, or if your website terms of use invoke the DMCA, then you should file under the new system before the end of 2017.