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Re-Register Your DMCA Agent in 2017 to Stay in the "Safe Harbor"

Internet service providers (ISPs) rely on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's ("DMCA") to shield themselves from liability for infringing content posted on the websites that they host. The DMCA's "safe harbor" provision allows ISPs to provide interactive websites where users can exchange content, ideas and images without the risk of being liable for copyright infringement. But to take advantage of the safe harbor provision, ISPs must register their DMCA agent with the U.S. Copyright Office and comply with other basic requirements.

ISPs who have previously registered their DMCA agent as of December 16, 2016 must re­-register by December 31, 2017. Though there have been no substantive changes to the safe harbor provision, ISPs must now register their agents in the new electronic DMCA Designated Agent Directory. The online process is quick, easy and costs just $6.

Internet service providers (ISPs) rely on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's ("DMCA") to shield themselves from liability for infringing content posted on the websites that they host. The DMCA's "safe harbor" provision allows ISPs to provide interactive websites where users can exchange content, ideas and images without the risk of being liable for copyright infringement. But to take advantage of the safe harbor provision, ISPs must register their DMCA agent with the U.S. Copyright Office and comply with other basic requirements.

ISPs who have previously registered their DMCA agent as of December 16, 2016 must re­-register by December 31, 2017. Though there have been no substantive changes to the safe harbor provision, ISPs must now register their agents in the new electronic DMCA Designated Agent Directory. The online process is quick, easy and costs just $6.

The DMCA Designated Agent Directory has two key changes. The first requires that ISPs provide a list of alternate names that the public may use to search for the ISP's designated agent. The old directory provided just a list of all registered ISPs while the new directory only has search function, making it easier to find ISPs who may operate under a different name than the one they registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Second, designated agent registrations are no longer perennial and now must be renewed every 3 years. ISPs must be sure to docket agent registration renewal dates or risk losing the shelter of the safe harbor provision.

More than just ISPs, really any company that has an online presence that allows users to post and exchange content would be wise to take advantage of the safe harbor provision. For example, online retailers commonly allow users to post product feedback and reviews and upload photographs and videos. Given the ease of registration and the potential reward of being insulated from copyright infringement liability, it's prudent for all online businesses to register a designated DMCA agent. Even if ultimately not eligible for the safe harbor provision, there is zero downside for taking this simple step.

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