The Copyright Office launched a new online DMCA agent registration in December 2016. In a controversial move, the Office decided to require parties that had previously registered in the old system to re-register in the new online system by the end of December 2017. Failure to register in the new system will compromise the safe harbor protections of the DMCA, so companies who haven’t registered to this point must get moving.
The DMCA and Agents
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides websites and apps with immunity from copyright infringement claims based on content uploaded by users. For example, YouTube cannot be sued for copyright infringement based on a video I upload to my YouTube account that contains a song from the Rolling Stones.
DMCA immunity comes with a price – a compliance process. The process is beyond the scope of this article, but one requirement is a business must designate a person to act as the “DMCA Agent.” This agent is registered with the Copyright Office in an online database available to the public. The agent’s name, address, phone number, and email address must also be listed on the companies’ website or app in a DMCA Policy or in the Terms and Conditions. Copyright complaints are then submitted to the agent.
Ye’ Old System
The DMCA was enacted in 1998. For reasons ranging from a lack of funding to general incompetence, the Copyright Office failed to launch an online registration system for agents. Instead, one had to fill out a paper form and mail it into the Library of Congress. The form would go through a number of terrorism security checks before eventually arriving in the Copyright Office. The form was then directed to the DMCA desk where one clerk, Sue, processed roughly 7,000 filings a year…by hand. This inefficiency resulted in the registration process taking between one and two months, which was a wee bit aggravating for businesses who were ready to launch their website or app immediately. The $140 filing fee was equally painful considering the time involved in the registration process.
Ye’ New System
After a mere 18 years, the Copyright Office announced a new online agent registration system would launch in December 2016. Instead of waiting months, the registration submission and approval process would take less than an hour. The fee would drop from $140 to $6. There was much rejoicing!
There was just one catch.
Parties who had previously registered in the old agent system would need to register again in the new online system. Agents on record before December 2016 would not be carried over to the new system for a valid reason – the old system was cluttered with filings for companies that no longer existed. By starting fresh, the new agent system would be accurate and remain uncluttered.
The Copyright Office also announced it would terminate the old agent system on January 1, 2018. Anyone wishing to take advantage of the DMCA has until December 31, 2017 to get their agent registered.
The Copyright Office also issued new rules and regulations for the new DMCA agent registration system. Here are a few highlights:
- Registrations must be renewed every three years for a fee of $6
- Businesses must now list their physical business address, not PO Boxes or similar services, when registering
- Businesses must now list all properties [sites and apps] the agent will be assigned to in the online public database.
There are other rules as well, so contact me if you do not have legal representation to make sure you comply.
If You Need An Agent
Prefer not to list your name, phone number, and email address for the public and spam bots to collect? I can act as the agent if you are located in California. If you are located in another state or country, contact DMCAAgentService.com.
The December 31, 2017 deadline is approaching quickly. If you allow visitors to post to your online properties, compliance with the DMCA is a must. Register your agent asap.
Richard A. Chapo, Esq.