Run a website, app, or blog? December’s DMCA change may affect you!

Attorney, The Creekmore Law Firm PC

Beginning December 1, 2016, there are new rules in effect for websites claiming Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) Safe Harbor protections.  The nearly 20-year-old system got a facelift when the outdated paper system was finally replaced by a digitized procedure.

Originally enacted in 1998, 17 U.S.C. §512 (c) of the DMCA offered Safe Harbor Protections to certain websites (certain types of “service providers” hosting content) from liability for third-party copyright infringement posted on their sites. An example of such infringement would be a Youtube user uploading a song without a license or a guest blogger uploading a photo to which he or she does not have a license or copyright. One requirement to invoke Safe Harbor Provisions included designating an “agent” to whom copyright infringement claims could be directed, who then would provide notice to the third party poster and take down the offending material if the poster failed to submit a valid counter-claimed for it to remain. These online service providers designated their agents using paper forms, which the Copyright Office scanned and made available on the Office’s website. The online service providers must also post their agents’ contact information on their websites.

As of December 1, hosts now will be able to register DMCA agents online for a reduced $6 fee, (down from $105+) making registrations cheaper and easier. While the ease of registration is a welcome surprise, additional rules potentially expose previously “safe” websites to new liability.

First, all existing registrations will be deleted. All sites with previously registered agents must RE-register by December 31, 2017 to continue to invoke the Safe Harbor protections.

Second, the new regulations require a new registration every three years. Previously, a registration was valid indefinitely so long as contact information was valid. In an attempt to ensure all DMCA contact data is up-to-date, the Copyright Office now requires sites to re-register and re-enter agent contact information. Sites will be allowed to renew lapsed registrations, but the Copyright Office will not retroactively date renewals. This means that during the period a registration may have lapsed, the site is open to DMCA claims and cannot invoke the Safe Harbor Protections during that time.

So, what’s a website operator to do?

  • register your DMCA agent now — it’s a miminal $6 fee and can save you a great deal of money and heartache in the instance of a third-party’s copyright infringement
  • add recurring reminders to your digital calendars in the months leading up to renewals
  • keep paper reminders in corporate records just in case; utilize any system that will keep you up-to-date
  • ensure your DMCA agent’s updated contact information is posted on your website

If you have any questions about how this new regulation will affect you or your business, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are ready and able to help. And don’t delay—the clock is ticking!

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