Businesses and nonprofits that operate a website or other online presence (mobile app, blog, portal, game, etc.) where users may post content (for example, in a user forum) will need to take action in 2017 in order to obtain or preserve their protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbor from copyright infringement liability.
Starting December 1, 2016, the second requirement has changed. The Agent Designation system now requires an online submission via the Copyright Office website. Moreover, any organization that previously designated an agent must resubmit the Agent Designation through the new online registration system by December 31, 2017. Failure to resubmit a designation will cause the previous designation to expire, resulting in a loss of the safe harbor protection.
The new online registration fee is $6 per agent designation. A designation lasts for three years and then must be renewed. Amendments, which may be filed at any time, restart the three-year renewal deadline.
The Copyright Office final rule requires organizations to include in the Agent Designation all alternate names that the public is likely to associate with the organization, such as d/b/a names, website names and addresses, and software application names. In addition, the final rule requires related companies such as parent and subsidiary to register separately, although a single registration account (login ID and password) may be used.
There are many instances in which existing Agent Designation forms contain nonfunctioning contact information or outdated lists of website addresses. Erroneous information undermines the protections afforded by the DMCA safe harbor. Therefore, the new online registration system provides a good opportunity for organizations to update their agent information and the list of websites and names linked to that designation.