IP Alerts

IP Alert
IP Alert: Limit Liability for Website Copyright Infringement

December 14, 2017

Every so often, tools are available to limit exposure to infringement claims. Rarely are those tools both inexpensive and effective. However, one such tool does currently exist for anyone who operates a website, but the clock is ticking and that opportunity will expire at the end of the year.

Over time the safe harbor provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have proven effective for website owners, network providers, and certain others in limiting their liability for copyright infringement. This safe harbor is of particular interest to owners of websites that allow visitors to post to the website. Often this is done to feature reviews of products or services or to facilitate community commentary and engagement with consumers.

Anytime that third parties are allowed to post to a website, concerns arise that appropriate resources may not be available to vet and clear that posting before it is published. Sometimes these postings could violate the copyrights of others. That dilemma has long been recognized in Copyright Law. As a result, the DMCA created highly regarded safe harbor provisions that relieve website owners from liability for those postings until they are specifically notified of the infringement and then continue to take no action. This specific notice allowance in the safe harbor provisions has surely saved countless millions of dollars in copyright infringement damages over the years.

However, the entitlement to use the safe harbor provisions will expire at the end of the year for anyone who has not registered an online agent to receive those notifications of potential copyright infringement. If you have previously registered an agent prior to December 1, 2016, then that agent must be re-registered by the end of 2017. If no agent has ever been registered, then one should be registered by the end of this year. Additional information regarding this requirement, as well as a link to the DMCA Designated Agent Directory, can be found on the Copyright Office website.

Anyone can serve as an agent so long as they have reliable contact information and that contact information is on file with the Copyright Office. Fitch Even is willing to act as your registered agent for these purposes if that serves you best. If you are interested in having Fitch Even serve as your agent, or if you have any questions about this alert, please contact your usual Fitch Even attorney. Questions can also be directed to Fitch Even partner Joseph T. Nabor, author of this alert.

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