The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, better known as the “DMCA”, is perhaps the single most significant law applicable to the web. Although criticized frequently, the Act is favorable to site owners so long as they comply with its requirements. As a site owner, do you need to comply with the DMCA? Let’s take a look at the answer.
Copyright law has been around for hundreds of years. The web is a slightly more recent development. The melding of the two has been neither easy nor smooth. The rules and case law surrounding traditional copyright law simply do not transfer well to the virtual world.
The DMCA was created to address this problem. The goal was to strike a balance between the rights of copyright owners and people posting items on the web. Sites often found themselves in the middle of disputes between these two parties. The DMCA creates a procedure for handling online copyright disputes without resorting to lawsuits.
Certain sites run into massive problems when it comes to copyright infringement. These sites allow user-generated content. Classic examples include Facebook, YouTube, and forums where members upload text, videos, music, and images.
The problem with user-generated content is members can post copyrighted material owned by another person, which is considered copyright infringement. This causes headaches for sites because it is nearly impossible to evaluate everything posted. The DMCA cures this by providing a “safe harbor” against being sued for monetary damages. The site just has to follow certain procedures.
One of the lesser known procedures is the site must designate a DMCA agent. This agent is the person who receives the complaints from copyright holders and then undertakes the process of handling the claim-counterclaim procedure detailed in the law.
What if you do not allow visitors to post anything to your site? You don’t need a DMCA agent. The content you upload, however, must still be copyright compliant.
USPTO DMCA Agent
One area of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act where confusion reigns is in regard to the governing agency. Most people assume it is the United States Patent & Trademark Office, better known as the “USPTO.”
This assumption is incorrect.
The agency controlling the DMCA agent registration process is the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. One would think the government would group all the intellectual property oversight with one agency, but the powers that be decided to split the control up in this case for some odd reason.
Do I need a DMCA agent? Yes, if you allow third parties to post content on your site. Don’t want to be your own agent? Try a service like DMCAAgentService.com. Feel free to contact us for more information.
Richard A. Chapo, Esq.