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Don’t let someone else’s online mistake get you into legal trouble

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03/16/2017 | Author: TAR Legal Staff

Do you have an IDX feed on your website or allow public comments on your blog? These are just some of the ways having a website could put you at risk for copyright infringement, even if you don’t have control over what’s posted or submitted.

For example, your IDX feed may include photos, descriptions, or even videos that didn’t come from you. Under federal law, someone who owns that content could pursue legal action against you and others who use or display that content without authorization—even if you didn’t have a hand in its posting. But there is a way to protect yourself from such claims.

One way to protect yourself from copyright-infringement claims 
You may be able to obtain liability protection, what’s called a “safe harbor,” for copyright infringement when users post or submit infringing content to your website. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides online service providers, like you, liability protection from copyright infringement in certain circumstances and if they meet certain requirements.

One requirement is that you must designate an agent with the U.S. Copyright Office to receive takedown notices from copyright owners when infringing content is posted. Under the law, an agent may be only one of the following:

  • An individual, e.g., John Smith
  • A specific position or title held by an individual, e.g., Marketing Manager or Copyright Agent
  • A specific department within the service provider’s organization or within a third-party entity, e.g., Marketing Department or Copyright Compliance Department
  • A third-party entity generally, e.g., a law firm or a DMCA takedown-service company.

Have an agent already registered? You could still lose your safe harbor protection

Re-register by December 31. The U.S. Copyright Office created a new electronic system to designate and search for agents. Even if you’ve previously registered an agent with the U.S. Copyright Office, you must register again through the electronic system by December 31 or you’ll lose your safe harbor protection. The fee to designate an agent, which was $105, is now only $6.

Keep updated information on your website. You may not be eligible for safe harbor protection if you do not maintain accurate information about you and your designated agent on your website. A service provider is required to make available its full legal name, physical street address (not a post office box), any alternate names used by the service provider, and the name, organization, physical mail address (street address or post office box), telephone number, and email address of its designated agent.

Renew your agent registration every three years. Your designation will expire three years after your registration unless you renew within the deadline by amending it to update information or by resubmitting it even if it has not changed. When information is amended or resubmitted, a new three-year period begins before the next renewal.

Get help understanding the DMCA
The Texas Association of REALTORS® has a free model policy available to members that provides more information about the DMCA, including information on the additional steps necessary to fulfill the safe harbor requirements. The model policy is updated to reflect the recent change in the designation process. Find the policy in the Risk Reduction Tools section of

The U.S. Copyright Office has additional resources online, including FAQs and videos.

Categories: Business tips, Legal
Tags: copyright, brokers, websites, legal

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Legal disclaimer

The material provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be considered as legal advice for your particular matter. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Applicability of the legal principles discussed in this material may differ substantially in individual situations.

While the Texas Association of REALTORS® has used reasonable efforts in collecting and preparing materials included here, due to the rapidly changing nature of the real estate marketplace and the law, and our reliance on information provided by outside sources, the Texas Association of REALTORS® makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee of the accuracy or reliability of any information provided here or elsewhere on Any legal or other information found here, on, or at other sites to which we link, should be verified before it is relied upon.

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