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DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act)

An important law for any website owner or operator to be aware of is the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).  This law basically provides website owners and operators with a safe harbor from claims of copyright infringement over their website content. This means you are protected from lawsuits regarding copyright infringements if someone posts protected material on your website. This is a particularly critical issue for websites that allow content from community members, as you don’t know if what you are getting original material or not. It is also applicable for individual bloggers who may inadvertently include copyrighted material and/or images in their content.

In order to be protected you must do three things:
  1. Have a designated DMCA registered agent.  This agent must be registered with the US Copyright office as the DMCA agent for your specific website.  While most anyone (including yourself) can serve as your agent, the appropriate form and filing fees must be submitted to the US Copyright office. 
  2. This agent and contact information must be listed on your website. 
  3. You must remove infringing materials as soon as you are notified on the infringement.

The law cover defines a specific process for how notifications of violating material should be submitted to your agent and specific information required.  It also includes a process and penalties associated with wrongful claims of infringements.

To set up your DCMA agent, print out the “Interim Designation of Agent to Receive Notification of Claimed Infringement” form (PDF). Fill it out and mail it to the USCO with the filing fee.  You must then keep this information up to date, and any changes will require new forms and filing fees. 

Additional information about the DCMA can be found at the following links:

US Government Copright Office: http://www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/
      
Chilling Effects Clearinghouse; a joint project of several different law schools:  
http://www.chillingeffects.org/copyright

Cornell Law School:  http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/512

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