If you run a web page that allows posting of any user-generated content (even comments), it is very important that you have a DMCA Agent designated to handle takedown notice requests and disputes so you are protected under the DMCA safe-harbor provisions. Any operator of such a website is deemed a “Service Provider.” If a Service Provider does not have a registered designated agent and material is posted by one of your Users that infringes a third party’s copyright interest or other rights (i.e. a defamatory statement or violation of a third party’s right to privacy or trademark), then you can be personally liable as the publisher of such material!
However, as long as you as the Service Provider does not actively participate in the illegal posting, or make copies, or determine to whom it is to be shared other than by and through ‘passive’ operation of the website or online bulletin board, then the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) offers the Service provider legal protection from liability, known as “Safe Harbor,” but only if the Service provider has listed a Designated Agent to receive objections and act in a proper manner with respect to removal of improper postings.
(See: https://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html#512 )
However, most website operators are not large enough to have fulltime staff to handle takedown notices. In the absence of specific Takedown Notice procedures, the DMCA sets up a process whereby the website proprietors can register their agent with the US Copyright Office to be contacted for this purpose. Simply by designating the agent and making sure the agent acts reasonably and responsibly upon receipt of complaints and/or a Takedown Notice, insures that the website owner Service Provider will not be held liable as a publisher of the illegal or offensive content.
Since 1998, Service Providers have submitted paper designations to the Copyright Office, which the Office then scanned and posted on the Office’s website to make them available to the public. Modernizing this practice, the Office has created a new, fully-electronic online system through which Service Providers can more efficiently submit and update, and the public can more easily search for and find, Designated Agent information. The amended rules govern Service Provider use of the new system and update what is required of Service Providers to remain compliant with 17 USC 512(c)(2) for Safe Harbor purposes.
On Dec. 1, 2016, the U.S. Copyright Office launched its new electronic system to designate and search for agents to receive notifications of claimed infringement. Going forward, all new DMCA takedown notice agent designations must now be made through the online registration system. Additionally, any service provider that has previously designated an agent with the Copyright Office through the old paper-based system will have until December 31, 2017, to submit a new designation electronically through the new system. Until that time, an accurate designation in the old paper-generated directory will continue to satisfy the service provider’s obligations under 17 USC 512(c)(2).
You can access the new system at: https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/
These DMCA filings will expire every three years, so they will need to be renewed. The Copyright Office’s new system is supposed to send out email reminders. We’ll see about that(!)
Filing fees are significantly lower than they were previously: now $6 per entity. All alternative names that the public would be likely to use to search for the Service Provider’s Designated Agent must be provided. There is no limit to the number of alternative names, URLs, service names, software names, and other commonly used names that can be listed on a Service Provider’s filing for this fee. However, separate legal entities must file separately and are not considered alternative names.
The Designated Agent does not have to be a natural (living) person. Service Providers now have the option to designate a specific person (e.g., Jane Doe), specific position or title of an individual (e.g., Copyright Manager), a department within the Service Provider’s organization or even a third-party entity (e.g., ACME Takedown Service) retained to handle Takedown Notices.
The Designated Agent’s physical mail address, telephone number and email address must be provided to the Copyright Office, and a Designated Agent may now provide a post office box to be displayed as its physical address. However, in a nod to technological obsolescence, a fax number is no longer required.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is not intended as legal advice. Because the law is not static, and one situation may differ from the next, we cannot assume responsibility for any actions taken based on information contained herein. Also, be aware that the law may vary from state. Therefore, this website cannot replace the advice of an experienced attorney. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. MJ Bogatin, Bogatin, Corman & Gold, www.bcgattorneys.com
© 2016 MJ Bogatin