It is almost universally accepted that in order to be successful in today's über-competitive market, businesses and individuals must maintain a strong, brand-driven digital presence. Equally critical to thriving in the current landscape is a thorough understanding of and compliance with the laws concerning intellectual property rights and online content.

Online service providers, in particular, should be vigilant in shielding themselves from potential copyright infringement liability for activities occurring on websites they control. Specifically, providers operating websites that feature content uploaded by others, or allow users to share or publish content from outside sources can accomplish this by availing themselves of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's ("DMCA") "safe-harbor" provision.

A threshold for securing safe harbor is the requirement to register a designated agent with the Copyright Office, which maintains a centralized directory of agents that have been designated by service providers to receive notifications of claimed infringement.

A New System for Registering Designated Agents

On December 1, 2016, the U.S. Copyright Office announced the implementation of a new electronic registration system, which online service providers must use to designate agents to receive notifications of claimed copyright infringement under the DMCA.

Previously, DMCA agent designation was accomplished by completing and filing a form with the Copyright Office with a required filing fee. The newly-created online registration system will replace the old paper-based system and directory, and, beginning December 31, 2017, the Copyright Office will no longer accept paper designations.

If a service provider has designated an agent with the Copyright Office prior to December 1, 2016, it must submit a new designation electronically using the online registration system by December 31, 2017 to maintain an active designation. Any designation not made through the online registration system will become invalid after December 31. Until that time, an accurate designation in the paper-generated directory will continue to satisfy the service provider's obligations under the DMCA.

More information on the new online registration system can be found on the Copyright Office's website. The current DMCA designated agent directory can be viewed here.

Recommendations for Online Service Providers

In addition to familiarizing yourself with the Copyright Office's new online registration requirements, we recommend that online service providers conduct a simultaneous review of their terms of services and privacy policies to ensure compliance with current legal guidelines.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.