December 23, 2016
By Dan Rubins
Reading time: 3 minutes

Last year, the Legal Robot team set off with a big mission: make the law better for everyone using AI. Since then, we have been constantly inspired to participate in the evolution of Artificial Intelligence.

So, when we heard about new DMCA rules from the US Copyright Office (USCO), we decided to create a new product to mitigate the damage from these new rules, using AI.

DMCA was passed almost two decades ago and, like most legislation, has a few flaws. The law provides a few important legal “Safe Harbors”, including one against liability from copyright claims for website owners that let users post content (text, images, video, etc)… IF they follow a bunch of rules.

DMCA - what’s that?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act extends copyright laws and protects internet operators through several “Safe Harbors.” The 512(c)(2) Safe Harbor protects websites owners from 3rd party copyright infringement liability. To receive these protections, website owners must comply with many conditions, including “notice and takedown” procedures, and registration with the USCO. Without these protections, the risk of potential copyright liability would prevent many useful websites from existing.

Wait, what happened?

Every single US-based website with user-generated content that forgets to register before the end of 2017 has a giant litigation target on their back.

On December 1st, 2016, the USCO switched from a paper-based registration system to a digital system. They lowered processing fees by 94%, but now require re-registration every three years in order to keep information current. Most importantly, any Designated Agent registrations before December 1st, 2016 will be invalidated at the end of 2017. Everyone who had this protection has to re-register or this important litigation shield goes away.

Copyright compliance is hardly exciting (even for us). But, as an operator of a website with User-Generated Content, you can be exposed to significant liability without this important Safe Harbor. Unfortunately, there are lots of requirements and many website operators lose protection because of technicalities.

  • Autonomously checks that that your website has the required information to be protected by the Safe Harbor
  • If your website is not compliant (most are not), guides you through how to fix it
  • Registers your Designated Agent with the US Copyright Office
  • Continually monitors your website and keeps your designated agent registration up-to-date
  • Publishes publicly auditable proof of your compliance

For $39/year, Legal Robot helps you maintain this important litigation shield and provides you with admissible evidence of your compliance, just in case you ever have to go to court.

In addition to helping people avoid costly litigation (#DoLessLaw), this is an important milestone for Legal Robot as a company: our first foray into a new level of interaction with AI. Instead of just analyzing information like contracts and other legal documents, Legal Robot actually does something with that analysis. Even for this narrow use case, algorithms are directly changing the world around us and taking action on our behalf.

We also wanted to support a deserving organization that promotes sensible IP regulation: the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which fights for our rights in the digital world. With every subscription, we will donate $5 to the EFF in your name (you can opt-out). Our genuine hope is that the EFF continues their work to make IP regulation more sane and ultimately make this product obsolete. Until then, Legal Robot will use AI to help website owners remain compliant.