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Can Your Website Expose You to Copyright Infringement Liability? Make Sure Your DMCA Protection Is Up-To-Date

March 14, 2017 Business & Tax Blog Intellectual Property

Does your website allow users to post content in any way (whether it be through a message board or even a simple comment or review), or do you link to other websites from yours? If so, you may be subject to liability for copyright infringement if the posted or linked content is infringing. Luckily, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the “DMCA”) creates safe harbors which could provide protection from such liability.

To qualify for the safe harbors, a website operator must satisfy a number of requirements, which may include the following:

  1. Adopting, reasonably implementing, and informing subscribers and account holders of a policy for terminating repeat infringers’ use of the operator’s system or network under appropriate circumstances; and
  2. Designating an agent to receive notices of alleged infringement. As of the end of last year, the U.S. Copyright Office (the “Office”) implemented a new electronic system for the designation of agents. The Office will no longer accept paper designations.

If you already comply with the DMCA safe harbors and previously filed a paper designation, you will need to submit a new, electronic designation by the end of the year to maintain your compliance with the DMCA safe harbor. Once filed electronically, the designation must be renewed every three years.

If you operate a website that links to other websites or allows users to post content but have not complied with the DMCA safe harbors, you may want to consider designating an agent with the Office and implementing the other required policies to gain the benefit of the DMCA safe harbors against copyright infringement claims.