copyright questionLast month, we heard tell o’ the pirates and the lawyers that chase ’em to the gates of perdition (or at least to the local federal courthouse,) with bloggers getting caught in the crossfire on the open sea, holed and sunk by legal briefs and lawyer bills.  This month, it’s time to run for safe harbor…

You may have a blog, or a WiFi network at home, or at your place of work.  Maybe your network is even “open” (no password needed.)  Bingo!  Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), you’re a “service provider” and if you don’t want to be liable for the actions of the users of your network or blog, then there are a few hoops you’ll need to jump through.

Under the DMCA  (Section 512), as a service provider seeking that famous “safe harbor” from liability must:

  • Inform customers of its copyright policies
  • Follow procedures established for notice and takedown
  • Designate an agent to receive DMCA notices
  • Register the agent with the Copyright Office
  • Lack knowledge of infringement or that the material is on its service
  • Take down any infringing materials that it discovers itself
  • Not gain any financial benefit from the infringing material

Oh, and that point about registering the agent…you have to get the form from the Copyright Office and send it in with your check for $105.00 to Copyright RRP, Box 71537, Washington, DC 20024.

“So Doc,” I hear you thinking, “What if I don’t do this stuff?”

A young mother of four in Minnesota was found liable for $62,500 per song downloaded on her computer (24 songs, for a total of $1.5 million) on November 4, 2010.  In theory, this penalty could apply to you, even if someone you do not know uses your WiFi Internet connection to download music.  There are businesses that watch the Internet, looking for copyright violations and then bringing suit against service providers who have not registered as required, since they do not enjoy the “safe harbor” and often settle out of court, rather than go through the time and expense of a full law suit.  One such company, RightHaven, just looks for web sites that repost stories from a Las Vegas newspaper, and has started over 160 law suits!

“So,” the Doc says, “better safe than sorry.”  Ask the attorneys at LW&H about DMCA compliance procedures.  Whether you run a blog, have a WiFi network, or are just a little paranoid, the registration with the Copyright Office could be a real headache-saver in the long run.

— Lawrence A. Husick, Esq.