The following is a guest post by Mark Gray, attorney-advisor in the Office of the General Counsel.
The deadline for the first wave of DMCA agent renewals is almost here. This post will explain what service providers need to know to maintain active agent registrations with the Copyright Office, and it will also answer some common questions.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), certain online service providers can qualify for safe harbor protection from some copyright infringement liability by, among other steps, designating an agent to receive notifications of claimed infringement. To designate an agent, a service provider must:
- Make certain contact information for the agent available to the public on its website.
- Provide the same information to the Copyright Office, which maintains a centralized online directory of designated agent contact information for public use.
- Ensure that this information is kept up to date.
In December 2016, the Copyright Office rolled out a new online registration system and electronically generated directory to replace its old paper-based system and directory. In connection with the launch of the new system, the Office issued new regulations governing the process for online service providers to designate a DMCA agent. Because the previous version of the directory contained significant inaccuracies and outdated information, the Office introduced a periodic renewal requirement: a service provider’s designation expires and becomes invalid three years after it is registered with the Office, unless the service provider renews it. Renewal is accomplished by either amending the designation to correct or update information or resubmitting the designation without amendment to confirm its continued accuracy. Renewal begins a new three-year period before the designation must be renewed again.
Designations submitted at the time the new system was launched and new regulations went into effect—that have not been amended or resubmitted during the past three years—will expire this December if no action is taken. Other designations will follow suit on a rolling basis, three years from the date they were initially registered in the new system or were last amended or resubmitted.
How do I update my DMCA agent designation with the Copyright Office?
Updating your designation with the Office is a simple process that should take only a few minutes. Start by logging in to your account at https://dmca.copyright.gov/osp/login.html. Once logged in, click the pencil icon next to the designation you want to renew to access a summary screen where you can review or edit your information. From there, click “Edit” if you need to update anything, or click “Preview and Pay” to renew without making any changes.
The Office has created step-by-step instructions to walk you through the renewal process, available in both video and text form. If you have questions, please see the DCMA Designated Agent Directory FAQ page and a help page for additional resources and a method to contact the Office directly.
Why do I have to renew my designation? Shouldn’t it be valid as long as my DMCA agent doesn’t change?
During the rulemaking process, the Office found the old paper-generated directory contained significant inaccuracies and outdated information. Although service providers are required to update their designations with the Office as information changes, an examination of a large sample of designations found that 22 percent were for defunct service providers, while approximately 65 percent of non-defunct service providers’ designations had inaccurate information (compared to the information provided on their own websites). The renewal requirement will help ensure that the directory stays up to date and, additionally, will assist service providers in retaining their safe harbor protections by reminding them to keep their information current.
How is the Copyright Office publicizing when it is time to renew?
The Office’s system automatically sends reminder emails to all email addresses on file for a service provider 90, 60, 30, and 7 days before its designation is to expire. The system also sends a final notice if a service provider’s designation expires without action. Service providers can supply up to four email addresses when they register with the Office (for a primary and secondary contact for the system account, the service provider itself, and the service provider’s designated agent), all of which will receive these reminders, reducing the risk that a service provider forgets to renew. The Office is also using its communications channels to publicize this first wave of renewal deadlines, and it is actively monitoring how many service providers are approaching the end of their three-year period.
Does renewing my designation start the three-year clock over again on the date I renew or does it add three years to my previous renewal deadline?
Renewing a designation restarts the three-year clock on the renewal date, and any amendment or resubmission is a renewal. That means that, regardless of whether you are one year or one week from expiration, updating your information will reset the three-year clock.
For example, if a service provider registered a new designation on January 1, 2017, and took no further action, its deadline to renew (by amending or resubmitting the designation) would be January 1, 2020. But, if the service provider amended its initial designation on March 1, 2019, to list a new DMCA agent, the three-year renewal clock would reset, and the new expiration date for the designation would be March 1, 2022.
As the example shows, the three-year time period is not additive—as with a typical consumer subscription service—because you are not paying for three years of DMCA protection. You are instead confirming, at least every three years, that your designation is current and accurate; the registration fee offsets the Office’s costs to process your submission.