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Copyright Office Establishes New Electronic DMCA Agent Registration

December 14, 2016
Post by Brandon W. Clark

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor provision is one of the most important copyright laws of today's online focused society. As of December 1, 2016, the Copyright Office has enacted a new set of rules one must follow to register a DMCA agent. The new system makes registration cheaper and easier but does require website owners and hosts to take proactive steps to ensure safe harbor protection.

Clients frequently ask if they should register a DMCA agent with the US Copyright Office. The short answer is, if you or your company run and maintain a website that hosts content uploaded or submitted by third parties, yes, you should register a DMCA agent. The agent's purpose is to act as the point of contact to receive notifications of claimed infringement. For example, your agent will be contacted with DMCA takedown notices if or when a content owner believes his or her ownership rights have been violated. There are no pre-requisites for being a DMCA agent and you can register yourself, your counsel, or any other person in your organization to serve as your DMCA agent.

Whether your website hosts millions of videos or you simply have a comment section that allows users to comment on your website's content, the DMCA safe harbor is what protects you in the event a user uploads copyrighted content or materials to your site. Under US copyright law, if a user uploads copyright infringing material, you could be held liable for that infringement if you do not have a DMCA agent registered.

The most substantial change to the registration process is that as of December 1, 2016 the interim, paper based, system was replaced with a permanent, online based, system. Hosts are now able to register DMCA agents online and with that comes a significant price decrease. Under the former system, the registration fee was $105 plus additional fees depending on the number of sites registered. The new system has a $6 flat fee and there is no limit to the number of sites being registered. In short, the new system should be much cheaper and easier to use than the former system.  

Along with the benefits, there are two important "burdens"to note. First, all existing DMCA agent registrations will be deleted. If you've registered a site previously you will need to re-register using the new system prior to December 31, 2017. Second, the new system requires a renewal registration every three years. Under the old system there was no renewal requirement but the goal of the renewal requirement is to make sure that the contact information is up to date and accurate. In the big picture of things, these requirements seem like fairly easy steps for website hosts to navigate.

If your website allows users to upload or post content, registering a DMCA agent is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to mitigate potential liability. Generally, the potential consequences of not doing so make the time and expense of registering look minuscule. For additional information visit https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/ or contact an MVS attorney.

Brandon W. Clark is the Chair of the Copyright, Entertainment, and Media Law Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit www.ipmvs.com or contact Brandon directly via email at brandon.clark@ipmvs.com.


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The attorneys of McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. designed this blog as an informational and educational resource about intellectual property law for our clients, other attorneys, and the public as a whole. Our goal is to provide cutting-edge information about recent developments in intellectual property law, including relevant case law updates, proposed legislation, and intellectual property law in the news.

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