Legal Hotline: Digital Millennium Copyright Act

  • Feb 02, 2017

Melissa Melewsky, Media Law Counsel

Q:  Occasionally readers will post copyright protected material on our Web site. Is there any way to avoid a potential copyright infringement claim in this situation?

 A: Yes, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 17 U.S.C. §1201, et seq., offers website operators a safe harbor from copyright infringement liability resulting from third party postings, if certain conditions are met.

 In order to avoid liability, a website operator (newspaper) must do the following:             

1. Designate an agent with the U.S. Copyright Office to receive infringement notices.

There is a $105 fee for initial registration and an additional fee if the newspaper designates more than one agent. 

2. If the newspaper’s designated agent receives notice of infringement, the agent must:

  • a. Expeditiously remove or disable access to the material subject to copyright,
        and
  • b. Notify the third party poster that the material has been removed or disabled
    subject to a copyright infringement notice. 

3. If the third party poster files a counter-notice asserting a right to use the material:

  • a. Newspapers must transmit the counter notice to the copyright holder who sent the original notice of infringement.
  • b. The copyright holder then has 14 days in which to file a lawsuit to enforce copyright.

If you have concerns about whether specific content posted to your website is protected by copyright and has been posted without permission, the PNA recommends that you remove it. 

You can learn more and obtain registration materials from the U.S. Copyright Office by visiting www.copyright.gov/onlinesp  or www.copyright.gov/onlinesp/agent.pdf.

As always, this is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.  Please consult your newspaper’s private attorney or call the PNA Legal Hotline with questions at (717) 703-3080.

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