Copyright Office Announces Electronic System for Designating Agents under DMCA
US Copyright Office - October 2016
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) provides safe harbors from copyright infringement liability for online service providers. In order to qualify for safe harbor protection, certain kinds of service providers—for example, those that allow users to post or store material on their systems, and search engines, directories, and other information location tools— must designate an agent to receive notifications of claimed copyright infringement. To designate an agent, a service provider must do two things: (1) make certain contact information for the agent available to the public on its website; and (2) provide the same information to the Copyright Office, which maintains a centralized online directory of designated agent contact information for public use. The service provider must also ensure that this information is up to date.
In December 2016, the Office introduced an online registration system and electronically generated directory to replace the Office’s old paper-based system and directory. Accordingly, the Office no longer accepts paper designations. To designate an agent, a service provider must register with and use the Office’s online system.
The United States Copyright Office has completed development of a new electronic system to designate and search for agents to receive notifications of claimed infringement, as required under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Accordingly, the Office is publishing a final rule in the Federal Register tomorrow to implement that system, replacing an interim rule that the Office had adopted after the DMCA’s enactment. The rule is effective on December 1, 2016, the date that the new online registration system and directory will be launched. In the meantime, users can begin to acquaint themselves with the new system by watching the video tutorials available here. Any service provider that has previously designated an agent with the Office will have until December 31, 2017, to submit a new designation electronically through the new online registration system. A link to search the directories (Old and New) and to access the online registration process is available here.
Since the DMCA’s enactment in 1998, online service providers have designated agents with the Copyright Office via paper filings, and the Office has made scanned copies of these filings available to the public by posting them on the Office’s website. Although the DMCA requires service providers to update their designations with the Office as information changes, an examination of a large sample of existing designations found that 22 percent were for defunct service providers, while approximately 65 percent of nondefunct service providers’ designations had inaccurate information (when compared to the information provided by service providers on their own websites).
The new electronic system modernizes the designation process and ensures a more usable and accurate public directory. The system has also been designed to encourage service providers to keep their information up to date. Transitioning to the electronic system has allowed the Office to substantially reduce the fee to designate an agent with the Office, from $105 (plus an additional fee of $35 for each group of one to ten alternate names used by the service provider) to $6 (with no additional fee for alternate names).
As part of the transition to the new electronic system, the Office’s present public directory of designated agents, generated by service providers’ paper filings, will be phased out on December 31, 2017. Until that time, an accurate designation in the old paper-generated directory will continue to satisfy the service provider’s obligations under section 512(c)(2), and the public will need to continue to search the paper-generated directory if the service provider is not yet listed in the new electronically generated directory.
For additional information about the new regulations and the new electronic system being implemented in conjunction with them, please visit the DMCA FAQ, available here, for answers to frequently asked questions.