Many companies and organizations comprise “online service providers” and therefore may be eligible for DMCA Safe Harbor Protection exempting them from liability for certain types of contributory copyright infringement. Online retailers, schools, arts organizations, non-profits and other entities with an online presence that provide “online services,” such as a website, email service, discussion forum or chat room, or have websites or other online platforms that allow others to post or store materials on their sites or systems, typically qualify as service providers under the DMCA. Providing internet access and storage qualifies as well.
In addition to those who post infringing content, service providers who essentially “publish” this infringing content may also be liable for copyright infringement. The purpose of the DMCA Safe Harbor provisions is to absolve service providers from this form of secondary liability for copyright infringement. But for DMCA Safe Harbor immunity, a service provider could be named as a defendant in copyright litigation over the unauthorized posting of photos, videos or other user-generated content found on its site. In this sense, qualifying for the DMCA Safe Harbor can be a valuable tool in minimizing an entity’s exposure to liability for copyright infringement.
However, in order to qualify for Safe Harbor Protection, it is essential for the service provider to designate an agent who is empowered to receive notification of claims to copyright infringement under the DMCA. This agent designation is effectuated through the US Copyright Office’s new online registration system, which took effect a few weeks ago. A link to the registration system and information can be found here: https://www.copyright.gov/dmca-directory/
While there are a few other additional requirements for qualifying for Safe Harbor Protection, the first and foremost requirement is making this agency designation. The other requirements are relatively easy to comply with.