The DMCA is a pivotal law that keeps sites as small as Mary’s gardening tips to sites as large as YouTube out of trouble for certain types of copyright claims. To gain the protection of this law, a website must register a DMCA agent with the United States Copyright Office. More than a few people are hesitant to do so since the agent is listed publicly on the web along with their physical address. With our DMCA registered agent service for websites, this no longer needs to be a problem.
Why An Agent?
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 provides websites with a safe harbor against copyright infringement litigation for claims related to content posted by users of the site. This means Facebook cannot be sued if someone posts a clip from Star Wars in their account. Put another way, the DMCA acts as a get out of jail free card for website operators allowing user generated content.
There is a catch, however. This immunity only applies if a website complies with the requirements of the law. Registering an agent with the Copyright Office is one of these requirements. Any website operator failing to make such a designation loses the immunity provided under the DMCA.
Now do I have your attention?
Where Sites Go Wrong
Websites run into all kinds of problems with the DMCA agent designation. The are few restrictions on who can be designated as an agent, so website operators pick everyone from themselves to a random friend to their receptionist. In doing so, they set themselves up for a legal trap.
While you can designate pretty much anyone as the agent, that person actually has to handle the copyright claims when they come in to your site. This requires highly technical legal analysis as well as adherence to a strict schedule called out in the DMCA.
Let’s assume a complaint comes in and your buddy/agent doesn’t say anything for a week. Wonderful. You’ve just waived the immunity provided by the DMCA. What if he lets you know the complaint came in – what do you do then?
Here is a list of task the DMCA agent must accomplish when a complaint comes in.
- Evaluate whether the complaint [takedown notice] meets the legal requirements detailed in the DMCA.
- Prepare a written response to either the complaining party or posting user depending on the validity of the initial complaint.
- Instruct the site owner regarding how to react to the complaint.
- Set up and maintain a calendar to process any counter notice coming in from the user in question.
- Respond to any such counter notice and/or forward an indication of the same to the original complaining party.
- Respond to a notice of lawsuit or subpoena for user information.
- In short, we are talking about a legal situation your receptionist is not trained to handle. You can kiss your immunity goodbye when the compliance effort inevitably goes awry.
Registered Agent Service
As an attorney, I act as the DMCA registered agent for numerous online businesses. The service includes being listed as the agent on your public website with the Copyright Office. I will also process and handle all takedown notices that come into the website although you or an employee will be required to participate in the actual removal of content for your site if necessary.
The benefit of this service is you know the protection provide by the DMCA will be maintained for your website. Considering copyright infringement lawsuits are currently the most common type of lawsuit faced by websites these days, that is no small thing.
I currently am representing clients located in California and outside the United States. Contact me today to establish your DMCA immunity.
Richard A. Chapo, Esq.