As of December 1, 2016, the U.S. Copyright Office will decrease the fee to register an agent to receive “takedown” notices under the DMCA from $105 to $6, pursuant to a new regulation. There will be additional changes, and everyone who has previously registered with the Copyright Office will need to update their registration electronically to keep it current. See 37 CFR 201.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) added Section 512 to the U.S. Copyright Act. Section 512 establishes a safe harbor for certain copyright infringement claims if website owners follow certain procedures. Commonly known as a “notice and takedown,” the safe harbor is especially popular with websites that accept third party content. (You can read more about the notice and takedown procedures under Section 512 of the Copyright Act in our post here) If a website owner elects to use the Section 512 safe harbor, claims of copyright infringement must follow certain notification procedures listed in the law.
One of the requirements for the safe harbor is that the website owner must register an agent to receive notices of claimed copyright infringement. Originally, a website owner would complete the agent registration form by hand, and then mail it to the Copyright Office with a $105 fee. In 2011, the Copyright Office issued a notice of proposed rulemaking relating to the creation of a new electronic filing system for these notices. Five years later, the Copyright Office performed a spot check of 500 paper-based agent registration forms, and found that 70% either had inaccurate information or were for service providers that were no longer in existence.
The New Regulation
In order to meet its statutory obligation to maintain a current directory of the DMCA agents, the Copyright Office’s new regulations go into effect as of December 1, 2016. Among the new requirements:
- Every website owner (called a “service provider” in the DMCA) that is currently registered for DMCA takedown notices with the Copyright Office will need to re-register under the new electronic system by no later than December 31, 2017. (All paper designations will become invalid as of January 1, 2018.)
- Once registered under the new system, the electronic registration will automatically expire after 3 years. The new system will automatically generate notices of upcoming expirations and reminders to renew designations.
- Amending a registration will re-start the 3-year expiration clock.
- Fees to renew/amend a registration will also (currently) be $6.
- Website owners/service providers will be required to set up a free online account with the Copyright Office and will be required provide the following information, which will not be made public: (1) login ID and password; (2) primary representative’s full name or position or title, organization, physical mail address, phone number and e-mail address; and (3) secondary representative’s full name or position or title, organization, physical mail address, phone number and e-mail address.
- Website owners/service providers may hire a third party to manage the copyright agent designations, but each affiliate of the website owner/service provider will need a separate designation.
- For its own DMCA registration, the website owner/service provider must provide the following information: (1) legal name; (2) physical address (no P.O. Boxes unless a special exemption is given); (3) telephone number; (4) e-mail address; (5) alternate names used by the service provider (including names that “the public would be likely to use to search for the service provider’s designated agent”); (6) designated agent’s name, organization, physical mailing address (no P.O. Boxes), telephone number, and e-mail address (the designated agent need not be an individually named person, but can be a title or an organization).
- The Copyright Office will no longer require a FAX # because “faxing has become a relatively obsolete technology.”
- Prior versions of the registrations will be available to the public free of charge for up to 10 years.
- Anyone managing multiple agent designations will need to review and renew each one separately, as the Copyright Office will not permit simultaneous renewals of multiple designations.
Of course, the Copyright Office does not view the new system as an excuse to permit erroneous agent information to remain in place until December of 2017, so information should be updated and kept current. The Copyright Office will be making that process easier and far less expensive for anyone who chooses to take advantage of the Section 512 safe harbor as of December 1, 2016.