Are your websites and online businesses properly protected against lawsuits by the DMCA Safe Harbor?
Hi everyone… Entertainment Lawyer Gordon Firemark here, with a quick tip for anyone who has a presence online.
You've probably heard about the DMCA before. You know, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act? That's the law that allows (actually, requires) online service providers like YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, and others to take down content immediately after they receive a complaint from someone claiming to be the rightful owner of that content.
Well, that same law, the DMCA, also provides protection against lawsuits. It's called a “safe harbor”, and it can protect anyone who has an online presence like a website…. IF You do things just right.
Now, I know you're thinking “Lawsuits? Why would anyone sue me over my little blog?” Well, if someone posts something in the comments, and it doesn't belong to them, you could be in trouble. And these aren't little lawsuits, either. Copyright infringement can involve hundreds of thousands of dollars in statutory damages… plus your lawyers fees, costs, and so on. Have I got your attention?
So, OK.. the safe harbor… Here's how it works. The DMCA (found at Section 512 of the Copyright law, Title 17 of the U.S. Code) says, in essence, that any online service provider who hosts user-generated content, can be immune from copyright infringement lawsuits, if they follow a few simple rules.
First, they must have a policy of taking down material upon proper notification of a claim,
➠Second, they must have a mechanism and policy for dealing with “repeat violators” (usually this means banning them from further posting after several complaints), and
Third, the service provider must have filed an “Interim Designation of Agent to Receive Notification of Claimed Infringement” with the Copyright Office in Washington.
Now most websites these days have a takedown policy and procedure identified in their terms of service. And, most will block or ban a user who repeatedly posts infringing material.
But what gets overlooked is that other component, the “interim designation”. This isn't hard to do, and it's not expensive. You fill out a simple form, and send it to the Copyright Office with payment of the filing fee, which right now, starts at $105 . This filing allows the copyright office to maintain a publicly available directory of these representatives, so copyright owners can easily determine where to send their DMCA Takedown notices.
But, If you don't have this interim designation on file at the time someone discovers some unauthorized content on your site… they can sue you… and that, I can assure you , will ruin your whole day.
So, if you have an online business, an e-commerce site, a podcast, or a blog that allows guest posts or comments from users, you really should take advantage of the safe harbor.
I've got a link to the form to use right in the notes down below. So just do it. You'll sleep just a little bit better tonight.
Register your Interim Designation using this form: