New Online Filing System of “Safe Harbors” Under Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”)

Takeaway: Beginning December 1, 2016, the United States Copyright Office will be using a new electric filing system for registering websites, apps, and other online platforms for “safe harbor” protection under Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).  If you have never filed designated agent information with the Copyright Office for your online platform, you should consider taking action immediately.  If you have previously designed an agent using the paper process, you are required to submit a new designation using the online system within one year—i.e., by no later than December 31, 2017.

The DMCA provides safe harbors from copyright infringement liability for any online service providers (including apps and website operators) when, for example, the website operator is not aware that a hyperlink on its website is infringing content hosted on another site.  By availing itself of the DMVA safe harbors, the online service provider is required to designate an agent who will receive notification of claimed copyright infringement.

Prior to this new online filing system, agent designations were required to be filed with the Copyright Office on a paper form either in hardcopy or scanned and sent via e-mail, and the designations would be posted on the website in PDFs.

Just as under the old system, service providers must keep their designations accurate by updating information if the agent designation has changed. Further, agent designations will expire and become invalid three years after registration, so designations must be renewed every three years.