New Copyright Regulations Require Updating Your Copyright Agent Information
December 19, 2016
by Jerry Glover
If you own a website, an app or any other digital medium that allows users to post comments, videos, photos, etc., onto the site, then be aware that the U.S. Copyright Office has issued new regulations, which became effective December 1, 2016, that require you to register the identity of your Copyright Agent with that Office. Deadline for registration is December 31, 2017 but we suggest you do it now.
Why is this registration important? Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, information service providers (ISPs) enjoy safe harbor protection from claims for copyright infringement if material posted on their sites came from users and not the ISPs. An ISP can be a mega website like YouTube or a small website that accepts consumer reviews of, say, restaurants. But to enjoy that safe harbor, the ISP must register a Copyright Agent with the U.S. Copyright Office. This Agent is the individual who receives complaints from copyright owners about material posted on the ISP which the copyright owner is demanding be removed. The Agent is required to pass that complaint on to the person/entity that posted the allegedly infringing material. The posting party can then either take the allegedly infringing material down or claim it is not an infringement. The Agent then relays the ISP’s decision to the copyright owner. If the ISP has refused to take the material down, the copyright owner must decide whether to file a lawsuit against the poster. But, again, the website is immune from an infringement claim for material a third party posted on the site.
Note that the Agent can be a natural person (i.e., a named individual) or a job title (e.g., “General Counsel”) or a specific department within the ISP’s organization.
Until these new regulations went into effect, ISPs only had to register an Agent once via a paper filing. The Copyright Office Agent records became filled with errors since ISPs often change their Agents and were not required to correct the Copyright Office records. To remedy that situation, the new regulations not only require registration of Agents on the Copyright Office website (see here: https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory) but also require those registrations to be renewed by the ISP every three years. Any pre-December 2016 registration that is not renewed by December 31, 2017 will expire. And with that expiration, the ISP’s immunity from infringement actions disappears.
The brightest light in this set of new regulations is that registration of Copyright Agents has been reduced from over $100 to just $6.