The U.S. Copyright Office Comes Online

On December 1, 2016, the United States Copyright Office made significant changes to how they handle receipt of “notice” under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).  Specifically, the U.S. Copyright Office has decided to revamp how it manages its directory of “copyright agents,” which is a compendium of agents who are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office as official agents designated to receive notices of claims of online copyright infringement.

Previously, the U.S. Copyright Office allowed online service providers to submit registration via paper mail, but now, starting December 2016, the Copyright Office is moving to an entirely electronic system.  For many online service providers, this means that they must re-register their designated agents with the U.S. Copyright Office.

So bottom line, what do people need to know?

  • You must re-register an agent of receipt with the U.S. Copyright Office as the designated agent to receive any notices of claims of copyright violation (this can be done with an electronic account through the new online system; failure to do so may result in a lapse of Safe Harbor protection);
  • Designations now expire, and as such, must be renewed periodically. The U.S. Copyright Office expects that service providers renew or extend filings with the U.S. Copyright Office.  (Although at first blush, this may seem extremely tedious, it makes a lot of sense because service providers and domain ownership can change overnight, and this change shifts the burden back to the service providers to keep the U.S. Copyright Office up-to-date on correct email addresses, etc.  To aid in the transition to the new electronic system, the U.S. Copyright Office has assured service providers that they that they will send out automated reminders to designated agents to inform them about upcoming renewal deadlines and procedures; and
  • Service providers now have greater flexibility in designating “copyright agents.” These new rules specifically define what an “agent” can be under the definition set forth by the U.S. Copyright office.  For example, service providers can now designate any of the following as an agent of receipt:
    1. A natural person;
    2. A specific position or title within an organization (e.g., Compliance Officer)
    3. An entire department within an organization (e.g., Legal Dept.); or
    4. A third-party entity (i.e., law firm, subsidiary or holding company)

With these new changes, it would behoove business organizations to designate specialized law firms or counsel as their copyright agent to streamline the process as the U.S. Copyright Office is unlikely to be sympathetic to institutions that do not quickly conform to the new rules.

All previously registered agents should strive to re-register by the end of 2017.  Likewise, organizations should also take advantage of the new pricing fee structure in place.  Fees now run a flat $6 per designation, amendment, and renewal, as opposed to the previous $10 additional fee required for aliases/connected business entities (which was often a further complication for the U.S. Copyright Office.)



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