How DMCA Safe Harbor Registration Can Protect Your Business

Getting a DMCA Safe Harbor registration in place is easy and cheap and can protect your business from a world of hurt. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) includes various provisions that keep online services from getting sued because of content that their users post. Without it, pretty much every major social media site would be unable to operate. You can use a DMCA Safe Harbor registration in your own business – and should!

What is the DMCA Safe Harbor?

The DMCA Safe Harbor is a part of the DMCA that protects websites and other online services from legal liability arising from their users’ copyright infringement. Imagine a world where Facebook, Twitter or Amazon could be sued every time a user posted any infringing content (lawyers call this kind of liability “secondary liability”, meaning that even if you are not the infringer, you may be liable for providing the means for infringement). If you imagine that world, you would understand that you would also be imagining a world without any social media. The legal liability would be too great.

The DMCA Safe Harbor provides a solution. Under 17 USC ยง512(c) of the Copyright Act, website owners and other service providers can avoid secondary liability for the actions of their users if (1) they have no actual knowledge of the infringement; (2) does not receive direct financial benefit from the infringement; and (3) if notified of the infringement via a DMCA takedown notice, responds promptly.

What is a DMCA Safe Harbor Registration?

If you want the above protection to apply to your site, you need to have a designated agent registered with the United States Copyright Office. If you don’t have a DMCA Safe Harbor registration, you can be liable for infringement done by your users. That’s a huge can of worms and could seriously threaten your business.

How Do I Get A DMCA Safe Harbor Registration?

First, you want to go to the Copyright Office website to learn more about DMCA Safe Harbor registration. Then, you can fill out and mail the form designating your registered agent.

Also understand that a DMCA Safe Harbor registration does not apply retroactively. That means that if the infringing activity happens and then you file a DMCA Safe Harbor registration afterwards, you are probably out of luck. So if your users can post any content to your site or service, now is probably the time to begin the process.

While the process is easy and cheap, it’s one of those things you want to get right. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an attorney to answer any questions or to clear up any confusion.