Following the passage of the DMCA in 1998, online service providers (such as hosts for web sites, email services, online forums or chat rooms) that wished to avoid liability for posting of copyrighted materials by third parties could avail themselves of a “safe harbor” under 17 U.S.C. § 512(c) by registering an agent with the US Copyright Office to receive takedown notices. Despite the term “Digital” in the Act’s title, for the past 18 years the Copyright Office has required all copyright agent designations to be on paper and either mailed or hand-delivered to the Office.
On October 31, 2016, the Copyright Office issued a new rule, instituting an electronic system for filing the required designations of copyright agents. The new system will go into effect on December 1, 2016.
Some key provisions of the new rule:
- All new designations of copyright agents must be made electronically beginning December 1, 2016. The Copyright Office will not accept paper filings after November 30.
- Entities that previously designated a copyright agent with the Copyright Office must submit a new designation via the electronic system by no later than December 31, 2017.
- Designations must be renewed once every three years (the previous system did not require renewal).
- The fee for designations and each subsequent renewal is US $6 per designation (the old fee was $105).
- A separate filing is required for each separate legal entity (but one entity can manage designations for other entities so long as each designation is filed separately).
- Service providers must list “all alternate names that the public would be likely to use to search for the service provider’s designated agent in the directory, including all names under which the service provider is doing business, website names and addresses (i.e., URLS, such as “__.com” or “___.org”), software application names, and other commonly used names.”
- There are a few minor changes to the designation itself. Service providers must still provide a physical address (no P.O. Box), but the agent can now have a P.O. Box, and can be a department of the service provider or a third-party entity rather than an individual.
For more information about the Copyright Office’s new online filing system for designating copyright agents, see https://www.copyright.gov/rulemaking/onlinesp/NPR/index.html
Author Kevin Grierson is a Partner at Culhane Meadows and co-chairs the firm’s Intellectual Property group. His practice focuses on intellectual property licensing and trademark prosecution. He can be reached at at email@example.com.
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