By Merry B. Luong and David R. Cook
In 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright ACT (“DMCA”) was designed to respond to the growing issue of file sharing websites and digital piracy of copyrighted material. The DMCA aims to protect copyright owners and provide a process by which copyright owners can seek removal of the infringing material hosted or linked to by a company, web host, search engine, or internet service provider (“ISP”). An ISP is any company, including telecommunication cooperatives, that provides online services or network access.
In addition to protecting copyright owners, the DMCA limits copyright infringement liability for an ISP if certain statutory requirements are met. For instance, the ISP must not have knowingly participated in the infringement, must not have financially benefitted from it, and must expeditiously remove the material upon receiving notification about its infringing nature. Additionally, if it is ultimately determined that the material in question did not infringe on any copyright, the ISP’s customer (individual who posted or linked the material in question) cannot take legal action against the ISP for removing the material.
However, the statute only provides such limited liability for ISPs if it designates an agent (“DMCA agent”) to receive notifications from copyright owners claiming infringement. Without a designated agent, the ISP is not afforded the statutory protection of limited liability. Autry, Hall & Cook LLP currently serves as a designated DMCA agent for ISP telephone companies. Our firm can be designated a DMCA agent for ISPs, including telecommunication cooperatives, and help ensure the cooperative benefits from the protection of the limited liability from copyright owners under the DMCA.