If you or your company has a website or app that hosts material submitted by users or that provides links to materials to other websites, take note: the U.S. Copyright Office has a new electronic filing system for registering websites, apps and other online platforms for “safe harbor” protection from copyright infringement liability under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).  (This electronic system replaces the prior paper-based system.)

Section 512 of the DMCA contains a safe harbor provision from copyright infringement liability for online service providers.  For example, the safe harbor provision protects website operators from copyright liability in situations where the website operator is not aware that a hyperlink included on its website is directed to infringing content hosted by another site, and where the website operator is not aware that a particular item of such user-submitted content infringes a copyright.

However, to obtain protection under the safe harbor provision of the DMCA, certain requirements and conditions must be satisfied.  One of the requirements is the designation of an agent to receive notifications of claimed copyright infringement and making the contact information for the agent available to the public on its website and providing such information to the U.S. Copyright Office.

Beginning December 1, 2016, all website operators seeking safe harbor protection under Section 512 are required to submit designations through the U.S. Copyright Office’s new electronic filing system.  Further, website operators that previously designated a copyright agent through the U.S. Copyright Office’s former paper-based system must submit a new designation through the electronic system by December 31, 2017.  Failure to do so will result in loss of the safe harbor protection since the new electronic filing system will fully replace the paper-based system.  The designation must also be renewed every three years, or else the designation will expire and become invalid – this is particularly important given that the current paper-based system does not require a renewal.

Accordingly, website operators seeking to avail themselves of the safe harbor provisions under the DMCA to avoid liability for copyright infringement should ensure compliance with the new electronic filing system.  Failure to do so may result in the loss of the safe harbor protections.

Please contact us with any questions about how to protect yourself from copyright infringement claims.