The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is one of the most important laws for U.S.-based community professionals. It provides safe harbor from liability for copyright infringement committed by our communities by users.

Copyright consultant Jonathan Bailey contacted me the other day to highlight a very important point about qualifying for this safe harbor. It’s not enough to adopt a system where you proactively address copyright infringing material on your site. It’s not enough to make it easy to contact you through your website and to quickly respond to notices.

You must register your DMCA agent with the Copyright Office by submitting this form, and make sure that the designation stays updated. But no, you can’t just register the name of your company. You must also register the name of the community and any alternative names.

For example, if I register an agent for iFroggy Network, which is what I call the collective of websites that I operate, that isn’t good enough. I need to also register as any website that requires safe harbor. For example:,, etc.

You can do this in a single filing, as long as the additional websites are owned and operated by you – and not by subsidiary companies, who must file their own DMCA agent. The filing fee is $105, plus an additional $35 for each group of 10 alternate service provider names (where I would include the specific websites I own). Again, whenever the agent or their contact information changes, you must refile with an update to the agent designation.

If you don’t do this, court cases have shown that, when push comes to shove, you will not be able to claim safe harbor. If you are a company that hasn’t done this, do it now. If you are a hobbyist who can spare the $105-$140, do it now.

I don’t like that this filing (and fee) is required to qualify for safe harbor. It is harmful to smaller online communities. After all, registering a DMCA agent has little to do with how seriously you deal with copyright infringement. There is no doubt that some organizations with registered DMCA agents do not treat copyright holders with respect. I believe that if you proactively deal with copyright issues and are responsive to copyright holders, that should be enough. But we have to operate in the world as it is.

As Jonathan notes in his excellent article about the issue (which I recommend reading), if you responsibly manage your community, are a good actor and don’t allow your space to become a haven for infringement, you’ll most likely be fine, regardless. But if you are a company or a hobbyist who is generating decent revenue, this is $105 well spent.