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Understanding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 1/29/2010

This summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act will help to explain what it is, what it does, who it affects, and how it affects them.

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    A summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) will help provide information about what it includes as well as explain who it affects and how. This act implements two World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) 1996 treaties. It became effective on October 28, 1998 and amended the Copyright Act of 1976. President Clinton was the person to sign this act into law.

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    What Does This Act Do?

    summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act This Act criminalizes the dissemination and production of technology, services, or devices that are intended to circumvent measures that control access to works that are copyrighted. The act of bypassing, or avoiding, an access control is also criminalized with this Act, whether or not an actual copyright infringement occurred. The DMCA also increases the penalties for internet-based copyright infringement. Ultimately, the DMCA was signed into law to control internet piracy.

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    Main Highlights of This Act

    There are ten main highlights of this act that everyone should be aware of. This summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act states the main key points of this act. These include:

    • This act makes it a crime to bypass any anti-piracy measures that most commercial software products have built in.
    • It explicitly states that nothing in the section shall affect limitations, copyright infringement defenses, remedies, or rights, including fair use.
    • It outlaws the sale, distribution, or manufacture of devices that crack codes to copy software illegally.
    • After relevant parties are consulted, the Register of Copyrights is required to be submitted to Congress, discussing how distance education should be promoted, through digital technologies, while an acceptable balance between the rights of the needs of users and copyright owners are maintained.
    • Copyright protection devices can be cracked, but only when used to assess product interoperability, conduct encryption research, and test computer security systems.
    • Webcasters are required to pay record companies licensing fees under this act.
    • Under certain circumstances, archives, non-profit libraries, and educational institutions are exempted from anti-circumvention provisions.
    • Non-profit higher education institutions' liability is limited, when under certain circumstances that serve as online service providers, for copyright infringement by graduate students or faculty members.
    • This act limits the copyright infringement liability, for internet service providers, when they are simply just transmitting information over the internet.
    • Service provides will be expected, however, to remove any material that appears to constitute, or be, copyright infringement from users' websites.
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    Filing a DMCA

    When copyright infringement has occurred, it is time to file a DMCA complaint. This complaint can be filed with the person, website, or company that is directly responsible for the copyright infringement, but all too often they do not take this seriously. So, it is best, if they ignore the DMCA complaint, to file one with their advertisers. In most cases, clicking on the ads on a website, or researching a company to find who advertises with them, will also make finding the advertiser's contact information relatively easy. Once the contact information is found, simply fill out a DMCA complaint for each advertiser and submit them all.

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    Resources

    United States Copyright Office. (1998). The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Retrieved on January 20, 2010 from the United States Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf

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    Image Credits

    Binary Code 3: sxc.hu/flaivoloka