The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) safe harbors are a vital protection for websites and Internet services of all sizes. But thanks to a new Copyright Office rule, website owners could lose safe harbor protections if they don’t register online by December 31. And that’s not all: Hollywood lobbyists are pushing the Copyright Office to create even more hoops for website owners to jump through in order to keep their safe harbor.

Under current law, the owners of websites and online services are protected from monetary liability when their users are accused of infringing copyright. Owners must meet many requirements in order to be eligible for that protection, including participating in the notorious notice-and-takedown procedure for allegedly infringing content. They also must register an agent with the Copyright Office, someone who can respond to takedown requests.

The DMCA is far from perfect, but it does allow websites and other intermediaries that host third-party material to thrive and grow without constant threat of litigation. Without safe harbors, small Internet businesses could face bankruptcy over the infringing activities of just a few of their users.

Now, a lot of those small sites risk losing their safe harbor protections. That’s because the Copyright Office recently made new rules for registering agents. Under the new system, the Office has decided that website owners must renew their registrations every three years or risk losing safe harbor protections. As we’ve written before, there’s simply no good reason for agent registrations to expire. We’re also afraid that it…

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