Changes for Copyright Protection of Websites Under New DMCA Online Registration System
On December 1, 2016 a new online registration system for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) was launched by the U.S. Copyright Office. With the new system comes several changes, as well as an expiration date for the original paper system established in 1998.
Section 512 of the DMCA provides website publishers the opportunity to protect themselves against claims of copyright infringement, caused by user material stored or posted on their websites, by designating a “take-down agent” for receipt of “take-down notices” at the U.S. Copyright Office. Under the old paper-based registration system, website publishers were required to complete, sign and mail a hard-copy document to the Register of Copyrights, accompanied by a check for 140 USD. The Copyright Office then published a scanned copy of the document on its website. The new e-filing system addresses major flaws of the old system but not without introducing a few caveats of its own.
Create an account and re-register before December 31, 2017.
The first and most notable change that comes with the new registration system is its exclusively electronic format. Website publishers may now create an online account to file and manage their DMCA registration. Furthermore, the new system includes a searchable database of agents. This change eliminates the time-consuming mail-and-copy limitations of the old system, making registration and updates more convenient and expedient. In order to transition into the new system, as of December 1, 2016, all website publishers currently registered in the old system must re-register using the new system within 13 months (by December 31, 2017) or risk losing their protection under the DMCA with the termination of the old system. Ultimately, re-registration is a small inconvenience compared to the ease and accuracy the new system offers, but website publishers should take note of this potential risk of loss of protection.
Be aware of the new 6 USD cost and renewal requirements.
In addition to online accessibility, launch of the new system includes a reduction in cost for registration. Cost per transaction (including re-registration, amendment or renewal) is now a flat fee of 6 USD (compared with 140 USD under the old system). However, the new system requires website publishers to renew their registration and pay a fee with the U.S. Copyright Office every three years. It should be noted that amendments to registration reset the 3-year clock in terms of the renewal requirement. Failure to renew may result in loss of protection under the DMCA. Additionally, renewal deadlines are publically posted, which may allow copyright owners to track renewals of competitors and take advantage of a lapse in protection. To help accommodate the transition to this 3-year renewal requirement, the new DMCA online system will provide periodic renewal reminders to registration account managers (at the 90 day, 60 day, 30 day and 1 week marks).
The Copyright Office has answered a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding changes to the system at: https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/faq.html. Additionally, the U.S. Copyright Office has provided video tutorials for using the new online system at: https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/help.html.
Author: Emily A. Dubuc, Associate