Reducing Risk from Copyrighted Materials Posted by Others

If you have a Web site where users may post their own thoughts, comments or files, you face the very real possibility that the materials your users post may violate someone else’s copyright. In most cases, it is impossible to manually review everything posted by users on a Web site and, even if you try to do so, you can’t necessarily know who owns everything that is placed on your site. While it is important to remind users within Terms of Use or elsewhere on the site about copyright and that posting others’ works is prohibited, that will not stop many users from doing so anyway.

Fortunately, under U.S. law, a Web site owner may not be liable for infringement for copyrighted material posted by others, provided that the site owner follows certain requirements and respond promptly in the event of notice of potential infringement. In order to take advantage of this possible immunity, though, the law (specifically, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) requires that the site owner register an agent on the U.S. Copyright Office’s Web site. Essentially, this registration provides a person to whom notices of potential infringement may be sent for review and possible action.

We wanted to alert you to this requirement, and to suggest that you add your company to the list maintained by the Copyright Office if you have not previously done so. To find out more and register your agent’s name, please go to:

http://www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/

The registration, which currently costs $80, is simple, quick and can go a long way toward reducing (although not eliminating) the exposure your company may face while still allowing your users to create a community within your site.

Please let us know if you have any questions about this or other legal issues relating to your Web site and your business.

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