What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (commonly referred to as the “DMCA”) was enacted in 1998 as an amendment to the Copyright Act. The DMCA was passed to address certain copyright issues that were becoming prominent due to both the internet and the growth of digital information. While there were several provisions of the DMCA, the most significant provisions fall into two categories. The first set relate to steps implemented to avoid the infringement of digital information (for example, the anti-circumvention steps built into DVDs):
1. When a company builds anti-piracy measures into commercial software, or creates a copy prevention system, it is generally a crime to attempt to circumvent those anti-piracy measures or copy prevention systems.
2. Related to this, it is illegal to make, sell or distribute any software devices which are used to circumvent anti-piracy measures or copy prevention systems.
3. These prohibitions against the circumvention of anti-piracy measures do not generally apply to research being done related to encryption, to address issues of product interoperability or to security tests.
4. Similar to other exceptions in the Copyright Act, archives and educational institutions are generally immune from these prohibitions.
The second major set of provisions in the DMCA relate to internet service providers. Specifically, they establish that an ISP is not liable for copyright infringement simply because it transmits information over the internet, and that it therefore will not be liable for any infringement committed by its users so long as the ISP follows certain guidelines (including removing the user’s infringing materials upon receiving notice of the infringing activities).
The DMCA also added a provision requiring webcasters (internet radio stations) to pay licensing fees to record companies.