TAKE ACTION: Food and beverage companies, restaurants, and other vendors that allow user-generated content like reviews, pictures, recipes or other data on their websites will need to electronically register their designated agent with U.S. Copyright Office under the new electronic designation system at the US Copyright office to be able to take advantage of the DMCA safe harbor provisions.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s Section 512 creates a safe harbor for service providers (including websites of companies hosting user-generated content) from claims of copyright infringement provided the service provider meets a series of criteria (like the provider not having a hand in posting the content or selecting it) and registers a “designated agent” with the Copyright office. Since the 1998 institution of the DMCA, the office has accepted registrations by paper and has found through auditing its records that many companies don’t properly keep their designated agent registrations updated. The office has been working on a new system and rules for registering designated agents since 2011.
The new rule implemented by the U.S. Copyright office requires that every company now file an electronic registration of their designated agent by December 31, 2017, and renew that registration every 3 years. If you already are registered by paper, you need to register electronically through the new system starting on December 1, 2016.
The bonus is that the cost is now $6 and not $105 for the renewals of your chosen designated agent.
If you don’t have an account for your content hosting website, you’ll want to create one and then get your designated agent registered. Under the new rule, you will want to register each of the names you do business as along with variations that people might logically search for and you still cannot register a P.O. Box as your physical address, but your agent’s address can be a P.O. Box and it appears that the office may be moving away from disfavoring third-party entities (like lawyers (yay!)) so you can certainly ask your (ehem) lawyer (ehem) to be your designated agent (really, me, of all the people? Why, I hadn’t considered it, but why not).
If you run a website for your business that allows customers or others to post and provide comment this is certainly a registration you can’t afford to miss. While there are plenty of other requirements under §512 that require implementation to take advantage of the non-liability afforded for copyright infringement under this safe-harbor, the designated agent is an absolute requirement and an easy compliance step to overlook.