DMCA safe harbor provisions should be taken advantage of by any business targeting the online market in the United States. To gain the protection of the DMCA, one must register a DMCA agent with the Copyright Office. While this isn’t a problem for domestic companies, registering a DMCA agent from outside of the United States is surprisingly difficult.
Antiquated Copyright Office
Ah, the United States Copyright Office – the home of contradictions. How so? The website for the Copyright Office allows you to register copyrights for materials that do not appear primarily online such as school text books. But when it comes to registering a DMCA agent, which is only applicable to Internet copyright issues, the Copyright Office provides no online option. Zippo. Nada. In an age when you can watch women’s teddy bears seek vengeance on former lovers [View the masterpiece here], the Copyright Office has been trying since 2011 to come up with an online form we can use to register agents…and hasn’t been able to swing it.
The only option for registering a DMCA agent with the Copyright Office in 2016 is to send in the form by traditional mail. Snail mail. The slowest form of communication these days short of the horse and buggy.
Ah, but there is a catch. The Copyright Office is located in Washington, D.C. The Library of Congress where the Copyright Office is based is considered a government building. Given these two factors, all mail must go through a screening process where security subjects the envelope to waterboarding, Superman’s x-ray vision, and perhaps Gandalf yelling, “You shall not pass” in an effort to assure terrorist are not trying to attack the Copyright Office. Because the Copyright Office would obviously be a high profile target…for some…well…let’s move on.
What exactly occurs during the security checks is a bit of a mystery. However, many parties have noticed that mailings seem to go missing now and then somewhere between the delivery of the envelope to the security office and when it should appear on the desk of the clerk handling the DMCA agent registrations. We would love to tell them what the problem is, but talking with anyone at the security check is verboten.
Snail mail comes with a second problem. Assuming your mail makes it through, you must also include a printed check to pay for the registration process. Many individuals and businesses operating online no longer use checks since a digital payment is more convenient, practically instantaneous, and easier to track. The Copyright Office provides no solutions for this scenario. None.
Enough with the problems. What options do you have to register an agent when living outside the United States? The first choice is to mail in the registration form and payment through international mail and hope it works out. If you don’t have checks for the payment, the best option is likely to ask someone you know in the U.S. to handle the process. You would send the person the form and the payment online, and that person would then send everything to the Copyright Office on your behalf.
If you have no other option and are desperate, we will handle the filing for you. We prefer not to, so we charge a fee of $100 to motivate you to find another solution, but we will do it if all else fails.
Filing a DMCA agent registration with the Copyright Office from outside of the United States is a pain in the old derriere. DMCA immunity is worth the aggravation, so suck it up and use one of the options mentioned herein.