Reminder! DMCA Agent Registration Deadline Approaching

October 23, 2017
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DMCA Agent Registration Must Be Completed By December 31st

The U.S. Copyright Office’s new electronic system to designate and search for agents to receive notifications of claimed infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is now live. Most importantly, by December 31, 2017, service providers are required to designate an agent under the DMCA using the new online system.

DMCA Agent Registration Deadline Approaching

Photo courtesy of Je Shoots (Unsplash.com)

The requirement applies even if a designation was previously made under the old system. At the end of the year, the paper system will cease to exist and any designation not made through the online registration system will expire and become invalid.

Designating an Agent Under the DMCA

As discussed more extensively in a prior article, Section 512 of the DMCA provides safe harbors from copyright infringement liability for online service providers that are engaged in specified activities and that meet certain eligibility requirements. In order to qualify for safe harbor protection, certain kinds of service providers—including those that allow third parties to post or store material on their systems, and search engines, directories, and other information location tools— must designate an agent to receive notifications of claimed copyright infringement. 

To designate an agent, a service provider must make certain contact information for the agent available to the public on its website. They also need to provide the same information to the Copyright Office, which maintains a centralized online directory of designated agent contact information for public use.

Under the prior regulations, registration was only required once and service providers paid a one-time fee. However, the Copyright Office determined that businesses were not keeping their designations accurate by timely updating information when it changed.

Under the new DMCA regulations, service providers must also renew their registration every three years. The agent designation will expire unless the service provider renews it by either amending it to correct or update all relevant information or by resubmitting it without amendment to confirm the designation’s continued accuracy.

Key Features of New Electronic DMCA System

The Copyright Office’s electronic system went live on December 1, 2016, and the agency no longer accepts paper designations. According to the agency, the new system is easier to use and imposes lower agent registration fees for service providers.

In its own reminder about designating a DMCA, the U.S. Copyright Office highlighted that it is continuing to add new features to the electronic system. Its latest release added the following:

  • The Copyright Office can now transfer a designation from one user account to another upon request.
  • By default, search results in the public directory now only show active service provider designations. There is now a box that users can check if they wish to also see terminated designations.
  • System users can now delete in-process designations.
  • There is now a preview screen that users will see before submitting payment.

Of course, the new system has one catch — businesses that previously designated an agent through a paper submission must complete a new designation using the electronic system by December 31, 2017.

Because service providers that fail to maintain accurate information may not satisfy the statutory requirements necessary for DMCA safe harbor protection, forgetting to maintain or renew an agent designation could lead to costly and unforeseen liability. It is imperative for businesses to file their agent designations before the December 31, 2017 deadline and create procedures for ensuring timely renewals in the future.

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss your copyright, trademark, or patent legal needs, feel free to contact me, William Samuels, at 201-806-3364.