For more detailed information about how you can protect your website from liability for content your users submit by taking advantage of the DMCA safe harbors, click here. This is a basic guide on the registration process for the DMCA safe harbor. Of course in addition to registering you must take a number of affirmative steps (terminating repeat infringers, responding to takedown notice) that we discuss in other guides.
Before using this guide, first identify whether you are an online service provider. Online service providers are websites which allow users to generate content of their own and upload it to the website. Examples include YouTube, Facebook, Livejournal, Wikipedia, and Craigslist. Blogs also may fall into this category, if they allow users to submit comments to the site. Heading up a website like these are a daunting task, let alone controlling every one of your users so that they do not upload any infringing materials. In order to shield yourself from being sued when an outsider posts infringing copyrighted content on your site, you can seek protection under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act's Safe Harbor Provision.
Why You Must Register a DMCA Agent as an Online Service Provider
As an Online Service Provider, you may receive safe harbor protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act if you take certain steps (these are all detailed in another guide). Procedurally, one of the most important steps you must take to receive safe harbor protection is registering a DMCA agent. The agent’s purpose is to act as the point of contact who receives notifications of claimed infringement. For example, your agent will be contacted with DMCA takedown notices if or when a content owner believes his or her ownership rights have been violated.
The agent’s contact information must be provided both to the US Copyright Office and must be on your (the service provider’s) website in a location where the public may access it. You can browse a list of designated agents at the Copyright Office's website.
Steps to Take
1. Find a form or create your own
The Copyright Office does have suggested formats available for filing either an Interim Designation or an Amended Designation. Use the Interim Designation form to designate an agent, and use the Amended Designation form to amend a previously filed “Designation of Agent.” Note that Amended Designations entirely replace rather than supplement Interim Designations.
The Copyright Office does not require that you use the forms it provides, but does encourage it. It is simpler to use the forms, however, because if you opt to create your own form you are responsible for ensuring that it includes all information required in section 201.38 (c) or (f) (as appropriate) of the interim regulations.
2. Fill out the form
It is worth noting that the entire Interim Designation or Amended Designation that you submit will be posted on the Copyright Office’s website. Therefore, you should only include information in the designation submission that is intended to be publicly posted. If extraneous information is included in the submission that is not required by the interim regulations, that information will also be scanned and posted on the website.
3. Determine the fee and deliver the form to the US Copyright Office
Regardless of whether you use the forms provided by the Copyright Office or create your own, a printed copy of the completed form, together with the appropriate fee, must then be mailed (or hand-delivered) to the Copyright Office.
You must include the appropriate fee with your Interim Designation or an Amended Designation. Note that the fee for filing includes a designation of an agent and lets you list only one name for the service provider. This should be the service provider’s legal name.
If you have alternative names (for example additional URLs), you will want to include them in the same filing so you do not pay over and over again to register. When you file alternative names in your filing, each group of 10 alternative names (or fewer) will require the payment of an additional fee. The additional fee for 10 (or fewer) alternative names is currently $30, in addition to the $105 basic filing fee.
The same fee structure detailed above applies to Amended designations, which replace the prior interim designation. Any additional names listed in an amended designation replace (they do not supplement) the alternative names that will be associated with the service provider. To add additional alternative names to the existing alternative names, every alternative name should be listed on your amended designation, and you will calculate the fee based on this.
Checks are payable to the Register of Copyrights.
Mail the forms to:
P.O. Box 71537
Washington, DC 20024
Or, you may personally deliver them to:
Public Information Office of the Copyright Office,
James Madison Memorial Building, Library of Congress,
101 Independence Avenue, SE, Washington, DC
Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST (except federal holidays).
4. Post your DMCA agent’s contact information in a publicly accessible location on your site
In addition to registering and posting your DMCA agent information, you must take a number of affirmative steps. YouTube has perfected this practice by making users verify that they are not infringing copyright when they upload content, as well as providing an easily readable Terms of Service and Copyright Policy. Other practices include terminating repeat infringers, responding to takedown notices, and others that we discuss in other guides on this site. You should also consult other websites' Terms of Service and policies to come up with further ideas of how you should present yours. The key objective is just to make it easiest for everyone to know and follow the rules.