Do a search on Google for the “DMCA agent directory” maintained by the Copyright Office, and you will soon notice something odd. Mighty Google will return search results showing two distinct directories. The existence of two directories can cause massive confusion. Why are there two? Which one do you register with? Why haven’t your lottery numbers come up yet? Okay, maybe not that last one. Allow me to explain what the heck is going on.
DMCA Copyright Office Registration
Slam on those brakes! Let’s take a step back to make sure we’re on the same page. Under the DMCA, an internet service provider – typically a website or app – can obtain immunity from copyright infringement claims based on content uploaded by users of the site or app in question. Copyright infringement claims are the most common type of legal claim online, so this is no small thing.
To obtain the immunity – known as the “DMCA safe harbor” – one must complete several compliance steps. One such step is to register your business and agent with the Copyright Office. The registration will run you an outrageous $6, but it must be done. Fail to register, and you waive the immunity provided under the DMCA. In short, registering is important, wichtig, vazhnyy, importante’!
The First Matrix…err, Directory
“Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world, where none suffered, where everyone would be happy? It was a disaster. No one would accept the program, entire crops were lost.”[T. Architect, The Matrix Reloaded]
Sorry, a bit of a Matrix fan, and they just announced a new Matrix movie will be coming out. Given it has been 20 years since the last one, it will likely be called “The Matrix – Maxing Out Your 401k.”
But I digress…
The DMCA is a law devoted primarily to online copyright issues. It was thus a bit odd that the Copyright Office initially launched a DMCA agent registration system that was mostly offline. One had to fill out and send in paperwork to register an agent. The process could take six weeks, as all filings in Washington, D.C., had to go through security screenings and then wind through the various offices in the Library of Congress until they landed on the desk of one poor clerk. Yes, one clerk handled all the filings from around the world. The last few years, the clerk’s name was Sue. She was exceedingly pleasant…and exceedingly overworked.
As with the original Matrix, the first DMCA agent directory was a disaster. The system used a one and done approach that resulted in more clutter then one would find in a mansion owned by a hoarder. Companies only had to register once. No renewal requirement existed. After a few years, the directory started to fill with listings from companies that no longer existed or had not updated their information. The Copyright Office left the first directory in place for 16 years. It would not be a stretch to suggest that roughly 70 percent of the listings were not accurate at the end of the run. The situation was that dire.
The Second DMCA Directory
By 2016, the Copyright Office was coming to grips with the fact this “internet-thingy” wasn’t going to go away. The Office allocated monies for the creation of an online system and, lo’, it was launched in late 2016.
And it was good.
The Copyright Office started from scratch. It did not transfer listings in the old directory to the new one. Companies were forced to re-register, which raised an uproar until everyone felt a bit stupid when they realized the cost was only $6. The new DMCA database was born clean of rubbish like a new babies’ butt. Wait. That doesn’t make sense. Well, work with me here. The new database had none of the “dead” listings of the old, which was a vast improvement.
To keep the new database clean, the Copyright Office also instituted a new mandatory renewal requirement. Companies must now renew their registration every three years. The renewal serves to filter out listings for companies that no longer exist while forcing renewing businesses to update their information. While there was much whining about this new requirement at first, the $6 renewal feel soon calmed the raging legal masses.
And it was good.
Good Directory, Bad Directory?
So, why does the Copyright Office keep the old DMCA agent directory active online? The answer comes to us from the 624 B.C. when the Pavlonians were being overrun by the Hungry Dogonians and were forced to hide the MySQL Database of Righteousness…oh, right. [Pauses] Wow, this egg nog has some kick.
Nobody knows why the Copyright Office hasn’t taken down the old DMCA agent directory. Based on his years of legal training and a few gin and tonics, one copyright attorney informed me that he believes the old database remains for litigation purposes. Specifically, one party suing another might need to see if the defendant had an agent registered in the past. By keeping the old directory online, the Copyright Office clerks don’t have to respond to inquiries from such attorneys other than to grunt and point to the old directory online.
…or someone forgot to take it down.
Ultimately, the mystery may take its place alongside such other “hmmm” scenarios as the Bermuda Triangle, where individual lost socks go, and who thought the Emoji Movie was a good idea?
All attempted humor aside, companies only need to interact with the new online directory these days. Use the new directory if you need to register a DMCA agent or renew a listing.
Happy Holidays from the team at DMCAAgentService.com!