Helping Shield Yourself From Secondary Liability for Copyright Infringement: Registering an Agent

Websites and blogs are a great way for breweries to interact with devoted fans and earn new ones, too. And, for the most part, if you’re the one pushing out information, photos, and whatnot to the public, then it’s easy to make sure things are squared away from a copyright perspective. But, if you solicit comments or photographs from others and display that user-generated content on your website, you could actually be on the hook for your users’ copyright infringement.

Realizing that sites rich with user content, like what we now know as YouTube, could never exist with a super-rigid law, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) back in 1998. The good news is, the law helps to protect website owners from secondary liability for someone else’s copyright infringement. In other words, if someone uploads an infringing video onto YouTube, then YouTube has a way out of getting hit with a legit lawsuit every time a copyright owner finds infringing material. But, there’s a bit of a caveat.

Protection from someone else’s copyright infringement isn’t automatic. The DMCA requires that you take certain measures to get that protection, and one measure is registering a designated agent with the U.S. Copyright Office. It’s worth it if you’re even borderline uncertain about whether your website does, or might soon, feature user-generated content. Should a copyright owner ever find objectionable user-generated material on your website, they’d be required to contact that registered agent with specific information about the infringing material and where it’s located. Then, as long as you take it down expeditiously, and take a few other measures, the law would protect you. However, if you don’t designate an agent, you can’t get that shield.

If you’re ever curious about how to get in touch with a website that lacks clear contact info, the US Copyright Office’s list of registered agents can actually be pretty helpful. You can check it out here. To find out more about designating a registered agent, head over to this website. But, keep in mind that there are other requirements you must follow to get that DMCA protection, so it’s always best to check in with your lawyer to make sure you’ve absolutely covered all your bases.

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