The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) protects webmasters and website owners from liability for copyright violations on their sites when materials are uploaded by users. In order to receive such immunity, site owners must meet several requirements, including having a take down procedure upon receipt of notice of a violation. But one easily overlooked requirement to take advantage of the safe harbor is the requirement to register with the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress.
Every website owner, even if previously registered in old system, muse re-register electronically by 12/31/2017. All paper designations will be invalid effective 1/1/2018. The online process costs $6 and takes less than 10 minutes. The registration process is online here: https://dmca.copyright.gov/osp/login.html
Why is this important and valuable? In essence, a website owner must have a public filing that tells the public where they can provide notice of any copyright violations by users on the website. The Copyright Office then maintains a public directory available online.
Any self hosted blog or other website that allows for comments by users, or other user contributions, should take efforts to take advantage of the safe harbor. Note that if your blog is hosted on WordPress.com or another similar site, it is likely protected by that site’s safe harbors provided the site operators have taken the proper steps. Here, especially because the filing fee is less than $10, it is better to be safe than sorry. A little insurance to avoid defending an copyright claim could go a long way – and potentially save a lot of money and hassle.
As noted frequently here on the IPelton® blog, I aim to practice what I preach. Last week I submitted a designation to the Copyright Office for this very website and blog: