by Craig Gipson

It is no secret that a lot of videos on YouTube are infringing someone else’s copyright. But why isn’t YouTube liable for that infringement? Because YouTube complies with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), including designating a copyright agent with the U.S. Copyright Office. And under new regulations issued by the Copyright Office, organizations must register a copyright agent online to maintain the DMCA’s safe harbor protections. Even if your organization registered an agent before 2018, all agents must be re-registered under the new system.

What Does the DMCA Do?

The DMCA protects the host of any infringing content posted by a third party from being legally liable for that content if it follows a certain procedure. In summary, this procedure involves designating an agent with the Copyright Office to receive copyright complaints, displaying the agent’s contact information on the organization’s website, responding to those complaints by removing the infringing content, and preventing repeat infringers from continuing to post infringing content. If the host does not follow this procedure, it may be held liable for the copyright infringement.

What is Different in the New Regulations?

Past regulations allowed the designation of an agent to be done by paper filing but the process was overly expensive, burdensome, and often done incorrectly, rendering the designation ineffective. The new regulations require that all organizations register agents—even those already registered—through the Copyright Office’s new all-online system or risk losing the safe harbor protection of the DMCA. The cost of the new registration system is also greatly reduced: only $6 per filing. Agent designation must be renewed at least once every three years.

Why Should My Organization Register A Copyright Agent?

If any of your organization’s online sites host any kind of content that your organization does not post itself (e.g. comments, public or guest blogs, photos, etc.), this is a simple and inexpensive way to avoid a copyright infringement dispute. For a $6 registration, copyright owners who find part of their work posted on your website will send a DMCA notice asking that the content be removed rather than a letter threatening a lawsuit. And more importantly, your organization will not yet be liable for that infringement, whereas the damage is already done without DMCA safe harbor protection. More information about creating a designated agent account and registering a designated agent may be found at or you may begin the process at Remember, DMCA safe harbor protection only applies if your organization has: (1) registered an agent with the Copyright Office; and (2) made the agent’s contact information available on your organization website. Please ensure your website terms of use are updated to include this contact information.

This article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. This article was first published as an ECPA Legal Update.