After years of threatening to bring its DMCA agent registration system into the digital age, the Copyright Office is finally ready to take advantage of this new Internet thingy. On December 1, 2016, anyone seeking the safe harbor protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act will be required to register their DMCA agent using a new online system.
The Slow Burn
The DMCA is the primary law for dealing with copyright issues online. Given this, one might think it logical that the Copyright Office would already have an online system for handling any and all DMCA filings.
One would be wrong.
Despite creating an online system for other copyright filings in 2008, the Copyright Office only started planning for an agent registration system in 2011. It has since taken another five years to create the system, which is rather amazing considering the old paper registration form was comprised of one page and an online database for agents already exists. Still, the system is finally ready, so let’s take a look at how it will work as well as the benefits and head-scratching aspects.
How It Works
Starting December 1, 2016, all DMCA agent filings must be submitted through the online system. The good news is the filings will instantly be added to the online database through a combination of software coding, magic, and voodoo ceremonies. The last two are just rumors, but we’re going with them.
Nobody is sure how the new system will work on a page by page basis since it is still under wrap. However, we do know the price for registering an agent will drop from the traditional $140 fee for up to 10 domains to $6. Sort of makes you wonder how the Copyright Office justified the $140 fee, but I digress.
If we were to guess [and we are], the new system will look very similar to the current eCO registration system offered by the Copyright Office for other copyright filings. One will register for an account and then go through a simple interview process before paying the amount due. If registering is anything other than incredibly simple, someone at the Copyright Office should be sent through the paddle line at a local fraternity.
Did we mention $6 to file? That’s $134 off the old $140 registration fee. Or 95 percent off. 95 percent! If only the same were true with Obamacare premiums.
An additional benefit of the new system should be the instantaneous nature of the filings. With the old paper system, two months could pass before the Copyright Office processed an agent registration form and added the information to the online database. The new system is allegedly going to publish the agent information immediately upon payment. Ah, modern technology.
Is the new online system problem-free? Come on. We are talking about a government agency here. A few headscratchers are already known to us based on information released by the Copyright Office.
Perhaps the most aggravating new policy involves DMCA agents currently registered with the Copyright Office. All these agents must be re-registered when the new system launches. You will have a year to do so and, thankfully, the $6 fee will apply instead of the old $140 figure. If you fail to re-register your agent, however, the Copyright Office will invalidate your old listing starting December 2017. Once that occurs, you will no longer be protected by the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA.
About that $6 fee. It is a bit misleading. The old registration system required a $140 filing fee that covered the registration of an agent for life. The new $6 fee is only good for three years. Companies large and small will need to re-register their DMCA agents every three years, so make sure to note as much on your calendar.
The final headscratcher is a rule the Copyright Office has issued with no justification whatsoever. Applicants are required to list their business address when registering an agent. For some reason, the Copyright Office is no longer going to allow businesses to use a post office box address or similar service as the business address. The new policy is problematic for people working from home who would rather not make their home address available for all to see in the online DMCA agent database. Unfortunately, the Copyright Office refused to change the policy when the topic of home businesses was raised during the development process. However, applicants can petition for permission to use such addresses, a process that will no doubt result in delays and inconsistent outcomes.
So, let’s summarize how this is all going to work based on the information available. Let’s assume you are a brand new company, and need to register your agent. The process will work as follows:
- Go to Copyright Office website.
- Open an account.
- Fill out the online form.
- Pay the $6 fee.
- Curse Trump and/or Clinton for not winning and saving you from the other one’s Presidency.
- In three years, remember the renewal deadline at the last minute, panic and renew the DMCA agent registration for your site or app.
- In three more years, remember the renewal deadline at the last minute, panic again and renew the agent before time runs out.
- Repeat every three years until a panic attack overwhelms your heart.
Will the new online registration system be a success? Yep. Although annoying, the system will be cheaper, faster, and produce more accurate information.
If it works.