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Copyright Alert: New Copyright Office Electronic System to Register Designated Agents Under the DMCA

December 2, 2016

Effective December 1, 2016, the US Copyright Office rolled out a new electronic system for the online registration of designated agents under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). Consequently, all online service providers who want the benefit of the safe harbor against copyright infringement claims are required to register under the new electronic system or, if they’re already registered under the old paper system, to submit fresh designations under the electronic system by December 31, 2017. Thus, agents who previously filed hardcopies of their DMCA agent designations must now do so again online, within the next 13 months, in order to keep the benefits of the safe harbor.

Background: The DMCA provides safe harbors from liability for copyright infringement for service providers that meet various requirements. One requirement is to designate an agent to receive notifications of alleged copyright infringement by (1) making that information available to the general public on the service provider’s website and (2) identifying and registering the agent with the Copyright Office.

Based on recent studies, the Copyright Office realized that much of the information they had on file about designated agents had become inaccurate over time because it was not regularly updated. With the new online repository, agent designations will be valid for three years, after which they expire unless renewed and updated.

The new system will automatically remind service providers to review and renew their designations. Therefore, it is prudent for agents to have updated information, both with the Copyright Office and on their websites, as courts could find that stale information constitutes a failure to comply with the statutory requirements for invoking the limitations on copyright liability.

The fee for designating an agent in the new system has been lowered from $105, plus $35 for each group of one to ten alternate names, to $6 per designation, whether registering a new designation or resubmitting or modifying a previous designation.

Again, the deadline for registered agents to update their registrations through the electronic system is December 31, 2017. If you would like our assistance in filing an initial designation or updating on old designation, please contact Howard G. Zaharoff.

The author would like to acknowledge the contributions to this article by and give thanks to Joanita Katende, Northeastern University School of Law (NUSL) 2017.

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