Attorneys and companies cheered the Copyright Office press release announcing a new online system for DMCA agent registrations. The previous paper filing system was a disaster. What many people didn’t realize was the new system would come with new regulations, including a few tricky twists. For instance, the Copyright Office seems to suggest businesses can no longer use PO Boxes as addresses. Is this correct? Let’s dig into the new physical street address requirement for DMCA agents.
Street Address Requirement
We can find the answer to our question in the Code of Federal Regulations at 37 C.F.R. § 201.38:
(b) Information required to designate an agent. To designate an agent, a service provider must make available through its service, including on its website in a location accessible to the public, and provide to the Copyright Office in accordance with paragraph (c) of this section, the following information:
(i) The full legal name and physical street address of the service provider. Related or affiliated service providers that are separate legal entities (e.g., corporate parents and subsidiaries) are considered separate service providers, and each must have its own separate designation.
Copyright Office Clarifies
Some people have twisted themselves in circles to get around this physical street address requirement for DMCA agents. Faced with this, the Copyright Office issued further guidance in its FAQ section:
Q. What information must be made available on a service provider’s website and provided to the Copyright Office to designate an agent?
Answer: A service provider is required to supply its full legal name, physical street address (not a post office box), any alternate names used by the service provider, and the name, organization, physical mail address (street address or post office box), telephone number, and email address of its designated agent.
So, the answer is pretty obvious. Must you list the physical address when registering a DMCA agent? Yes.
But why require a physical address? Large copyright holders lobbied the Copyright Office to add the requirement. In theory, this provides copyright holders with the ability to locate infringing parties. No other reason for the physical street address requirement exists.
The problem with this approach is it creates safety risks for people working from home. After all, how many of us want a “fan” appearing on our doorstep one day, particularly if children live in the house?
Copyright Office Petition
The Copyright Office’s response to this criticism is to state filing parties can petition for relief by showing “exceptional circumstances” that equates to a safety risk. You can read about the petition process here.
Of course, it is easy to complain about stupefying regulations, but such complaints ring hollow if one doesn’t also offer a solution. In this case, the answer is not only simple but so evident that one must question the competence of individuals involved in drafting these regulations.
Have each person registering a DMCA agent designate a person to receive legal service. An agent for service of process, if you will.
States use this approach with business entities. When a person forms a limited liability company or corporation, they are required to list the name and address of a person designated to receive legal documents on behalf of the business. This individual is often the lawyer who formed the entity or a third party that provides such services.
If the Copyright Office used this approach with the DMCA agent registration system, the benefits would be threefold:
- Parties working from home would not be required to list their home address publicly;
- Copyright owners would have a clear path to serving lawsuits;
- Legal counsel for the Copyright Office would not need to waste time reviewing thousands of petitions for relief.
And the downside of such an approach? I’ve yet to identify one.
One imagines the Copyright Office will eventually get around to modifying the physical street address requirement for DMCA Agents. Until then, you need to list your street address or file a petition. We can help.