Website and mobile app operators need to take note of an important legal change that affects their potential liability arising from user-posted content. In some circumstances, a website operator may be liable if a user posts content that infringes on someone else's copyright—for example, pictures or video posted without permission from the creator. Until recently, rules created under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provided website and mobile operators with a safe harbor from most liability, which they could take advantage of by (1) registering with the U.S. Copyright Office; and (2) posting contact information on their website (and registering the same with the U.S. Copyright Office) through which rights-holders could submit requests to take down infringing content.
Recently, however, the U.S. Copyright Office adopted a new rule that will terminate all existing registrations on December 31, 2017. New registrations will have to be renewed every three years. A summary of the new rule can be found here and a more detailed discussion here. Anyone hosting a site that allows user-posted content should review the new rule to determine how it may apply to them and, if necessary, consult an attorney for assistance.
If you have an existing registration, you should make any necessary updates to your information on file with the U.S. Copyright Office so that you do not lose your safe harbor protection. You should also calendar a reminder to renew your DMCA registration before December 31, 2017. If you are making a new registration, calendar a reminder to renew the registration every three years. It is important to note that related entities are not protected by the same registration and each must have their own registration.
The general information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice. For assistance with legal issues related to technology and intellectual property, contact Kent Meyerhoff, Dan Lawrence or Sam Foreman at Fleeson Gooing.