(Registered agent contact information must be ELECTRONICALLY filed with the Copyright Office by December 31, 2017)

How much is peace of mind worth to you?

Does $6.00 and less than an hour of your time sound about right? What if I told you that this alone would significantly reduce the likelihood that you will be sued for copyright infringement during the following three years?

I bet that last part got your attention, didn’t it?  Act fast – this great offer is only available for a limited time! Actually, that’s not entirely true: you can (and should) act after December 31.  But you expose yourself to monetary liability for copyright infringement after Baby New Year 2018 makes his or her appearance.

What we’re talking about here is the need to register a “Designated Agent” with the United States Copyright Office in order to take advantage of certain safe harbor provisions of Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  We’ve written about DMCA Section 512 many times in the past. If you haven’t been following along, I strongly suggest that you at least read the most recent post explaining Section 512 in the context of a Copyright Office proceeding evaluating the future of this law (come for the legal explanation; stay for the multiple Prince references!).

If you did the background reading, you’ll know that Section 512’s safe harbors protects online service providers from copyright infringement damages claims arising from certain actions that those service providers take regarding content published by third parties.  For example, if you have a website and you allow others to post to your site (e.g., comments to the stories you publish), following the requirements of Section 512 ensures that you will not be on the hook for copyright infringement damages arising from certain unauthorized uses of that third party content.  Those requirements include (but are not limited to):

  1. Designating a copyright agent, often referred to as the “DMCA Agent”;
  2. Adopting a copyright infringement policy that provides your DMCA Agent’s contact information and your policies regarding copyright infringement – specifically, how you will deal with repeat infringers; and
  3. Properly dealing with a Takedown Notice when received by your DMCA Agent.

We have discussed numbers 2 and 3 in great detail in the past (both in the above-referenced posts and in presentations at various conferences and events; I even started explaining it once at a cocktail party, which pretty much cleared the room).

The changes we’re discussing here, which require action by December 31, are relevant to # 1 – i.e., designation of a DMCA Agent, or, more specifically, changes to the process of registering that DMCA Agent with the Copyright Office.

It has always been required that you:

  1. Provide the contact information for your DMCA agent on your website (we generally suggest putting this, along with your copyright infringement policy, in your website Terms of Use and highlighting it on its own page); AND
  2. File that same information with the Copyright Office.

That used to be enough to just file your DMCA agent’s contact information with the Copyright Office (which maintained a current directory of all DMCA agents here) and only update that information upon a change in the DMCA agent.

Late last year, the Copyright Office announced that all DMCA agent information would have to be submitted via a new Copyright Office online registration system and, further, that the DMCA Agent information would have to be updated every three years.  All entities seeking the safe harbor protection must comply, even those who already had DMCA agent information on file.  As the Copyright Office states on its “DMCA  Designated Agent Directory” landing pageAny designation not made through the online registration system will expire and become invalid after December 31, 2017.

The clock is ticking. But the good news is that the registration process is incredibly simple.  Leading by example, I’ve already completed the online registration process for Commlawblog and for two other entities and can confirm that it took mere minutes. And, as I mentioned, the filing fee is only $6.00.

You can access the registration form here. The Copyright Office has also been kind enough to provide answers to some Frequently Asked Questions as well.

And, of course, we are here to help as always.  You can contact me or Karyn Ablin if you have questions.