Locke Lord QuickStudy: DMCA Designated Agent Directory Goes Digital

Locke Lord LLP
December 13, 2016

Effective on December 1, 2016, the U.S. Copyright Office has formally replaced the existing paper-based “interim” DMCA agent registration procedure with a permanent, online-only system.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or DMCA), websites that host content uploaded by third-party users (such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook) can be held liable for copyright infringement if users upload content without the permission of the content’s owner. The DMCA offers, however, a safe harbor that allows website service providers to avoid any such infringement liability so long as they meet certain criteria, including the requirement that the service provider has designated and registered a DMCA agent to receive notices of alleged copyright infringement.

In the past, service providers could only register a DMCA agent via a paper filing through the interim paper registration system. In spite of this being deemed an “interim” solution, the U.S. Copyright Office actually instituted the paper filing system when the DMCA was first enacted – 18 years ago.  Under the new internet-based system, service providers are able to register their DMCA agent online with minimal administrative effort at a cost of only $6 per site (under the old system the cost of registration was $105 for one site and included an additional $35 price tag for any additional sites). 

For many this is a welcome and long-overdue update: from slow and costly to quick and cheap. There are, however, a couple of new administrative burdens that service providers should be aware of:

  1. First, every service provider with an existing registration will need to re-register its DMCA agent by December 31, 2017. Until that deadline, the U.S. Copyright Office will maintain two separate directories of registered agents. It is important to complete this re-registration by December 31, 2017 since the existing directory will be completely deleted, and failure to register will mean forfeiting safe harbor protection.
  2. While the interim system only required re-registration if an agent’s information became out-of-date, the new system requires site hosts to re-register their DMCA agent every three years. Again, it is important to keep track of this repeat filing deadline, because without a registered DMCA agent a service provider is not eligible for safe harbor protection.

The Trademark, Copyright & Advertising Group at Locke Lord LLP is experienced at helping companies and clients with questions regarding the DMCA.  For more information on the matters discussed in this Locke Lord QuickStudy, please contact the authors.