Copyright Office To Require Online Registration of DMCA Agents

November 8, 2016

If you have a website with any user-generated content, you want to take full advantage of the protection provided by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). This has two components. The first is posting (and following) a takedown policy for potentially infringing content in your terms of use. The second, often-overlooked, component is registering an agent with the US Copyright Office. The agent is the person designated to receive notices of claimed infringement. If you fail to do both, you lose the benefits of the safe-harbor protection under the DMCA. In the past, registering an agent required filing a paper form and paying a fee of at least $105, plus $35 for each group of 10 additional names (such as alternate domain names). This process is about to get a lot easier, and less expensive too.

Starting December 1, 2016, you will be able to register an agent online, bringing the Copyright Office into the late 20th century. Even better, the registration fee will be $6, and there will be no additional fee for alternate names. This online registration process, and the lower fee, will make it easier to keep your registrations up-to-date – for example, if your designated agent was an employee and that employee quits. There are two catches, however. The first catch is that you will have to renew your agent listing every 3 years. That’s designed to ensure that the listings are current and accurate. The second catch is that the Copyright Office will be phasing out the current directory, populated by paper filings, by the end of next year. Every company that has already registered an agent will need to update their registration with a new online filing, which must be done by December 31, 2017.

So I strongly recommend that you mark your calendar for the first week of next month, to update your existing registration with an online filing. If you let it go, thinking that you have plenty of time, you will likely forget to take care of it. And if you haven’t registered an agent, I strongly recommend that you do so in early December. As I mentioned above, it is an essential element of insulating you from claims of copyright infringement.

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