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Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and includes the following provisions:

  • Makes it a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into most commercial software.
  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are expected to remove material from users’ web sites that appears to constitute copyright infringement. Note that ISPs are treated as publishers and will not be held liable for copyright infringement liability for transmitting information over the Internet so long as they take action to restrict users’ access to objectionable material.
  • Outlaws the manufacture, sale, or distribution of code-cracking devices used to illegally copy software.
  • Does permit the cracking of copyright protection devices, however, to conduct encryption research, assess product interoperability, and test computer security systems.
  • Provides exemptions from anti-circumvention provisions for nonprofit libraries, archives, and educational institutions under certain circumstances.
  • Limits liability of nonprofit institutions of higher education — when they serve as online service providers and under certain circumstances — for copyright infringement by faculty members or graduate students.
  • Requires that “webcasters” pay licensing fees to record companies.
  • Requires that the Register of Copyrights, after consultation with relevant parties, submit to Congress recommendations regarding how to promote distance education through digital technologies while “maintaining an appropriate balance between the rights of copyright owners and the needs of users.”
  • States explicitly that “[n]othing in this section shall affect rights, remedies, limitations, or defenses to copyright infringement, including fair use . . .”

Last Modified: December 5th, 2009