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Digital millennium copyright act: Featured Article

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Introduction to the Digital millennium copyright act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was signed into law by United States, President Clinton on October 28, 1998 after a unanimous vote by the United States Senate (which occurred on the 12th of October). The legislation implements two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties: the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. The DMCA is also recognized for its distinguishing of penalties against those who violate copyright laws on materials that are found on the internet. The DMCA addresses a number of copyright-related issues that will be discussed in more detail in the paragraphs that follow.

DMCA infringement claim requirements

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows for the infliction of more severe consequences on those who violate copyright laws. In order to make a claim that one has violated a copyright that you hold, the DMCA requires that all infringement claims must be in writing and must include the following information:



  • A physical or electronic signature of the copyright owner or the person authorized to act on its behalf.

  •  A description of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed upon.

  •  A description of the infringing material and information reasonably sufficient to permit the proper authorities to locate the material.

  •  Your (the one filling the claim that copyright has been violated, usually the owner of the copyright) contact information, including your address, telephone number, and email.

  •  A statement by you that you have a legitimate and convincing argument that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

  •  A statement that the information in the notification is accurate and that you are authorized to act on behalf of the copyright owner. (source: www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf and http://www.harvard.edu/copyright.html)

The five titles of the DMCA

The digital millennium copyright act consists of five titles. These titles are summarized below. To read the titles of the DMCA and the provisions therein in their entirety, you can do so by visiting the U.S. Copyright Office website, by downloading the PDF version of the DMCA from www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf or by requesting that the written version of the DMCA be sent to you (the contact information for this request can also be found on the U.S. Copyright Office website).

  • Title I - "WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act of 1998"

Title I implements the WIPO treaties and has two major portions to it. The first portion includes works covered by several treaties in U.S .copy prevention laws and gave the title its name. The second portion is often known as the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions. It used to be required for those producing analog video to implement a system known as Macrovision to keep their product copy protected. But this essentially gave Macrovision a monopoly on the analog copy protection market which was not acceptable. The title also contains information regarding reverse engineering and its relationship with copyright law.





Helpful Resources:
1. Official U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Follow this link to read the official U.S. Digital millennium copyright act in its entirety. This government sponsored site is a PDF version of the 18 page long digital millennium copyright act document.

2. Google's Digital Millennium Copyright Act
This site contains Google's Digital Millennium Copyright Act agreement as it pertains specifically to them and to the works that they claim ownership of. Google has a history of copyright issues that prefaced the need for such a contract.

3. How to Take Action
Follow this link to read a Harvard University sponsored site that is designed to help any individual wishing to take action against another who has violated their copyright and how the digital millennium copyright act is involved in this process.

4. Wikipedia
This site also contains a summary of the provisions of the digital millennium copyright act. Also included in this article are the anti-circumvention exceptions of the act and a list of references to review.

5. UCLA's Summary of DMCA
This is another link to a review or summary of the digital millennium copyright act of 1998. Posted by UCLA, this link leads to a short article that highlights only the most important features of the act.

6. DMCA Articles
This link will take you to a site where you will have the option of looking over and reading a variety of articles that are all related to the issue of the digital millennium copyright act.

7. Complying with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
This site provides information regarding Complying with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and consequently responding to notices of alleged infringement in the most appropriate and effective manner.

8. Petition of DMCA
Not all individuals are in favor of the digital millennium copyright act, in fact, this site leads to a petition that is addressed to U.S. Congress and Judiciary that asks for the abolishment of the DMCA.

9. Maintaining Compliance
This link will take you to an article that is designed to be a guide for ISP and web hosts regarding how to remain compliant with the digital millennium copyright act of 1998.

10. Encyclopedia Britannica Online
This site is part of the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica and it addresses some of the most popular cases where the digital millennium copyright act was enforced buy the government.




  • Title II - "Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act"

Title II creates limitations on the liability of online service providers for copyright infringement. These liability limitations exist for online service providers when they are engaging in certain types of activities. In order for the protection to remain effective the online service provider must adhere to and qualify for certain prescribed "safe harbor" guidelines and promptly block access to allegedly infringing material (or remove such material from their systems) if they receive a notification claiming infringement from a copyright holder or the copyright holder's agent. The online service provider is protected from legal repercussions even if they had been infringing on one's copyright but removed such information when this infringement was brought to their attention.

  • Title III - "Computer Maintenance Competition Assurance Act"

Title III creates an exemption for making a copy of a computer program. This exemption applies to those making computer repairs. By activating a computer for purposes of maintenance or repair the maintenance worker is allowed under this title to make certain temporary, limited copies (regardless of whether or not those materials are copyrighted) as part of the repair process.

  • Title IV - Miscellaneous Provisions

Title IV contains an assortment of miscellaneous provisions. Some of these provisions are as follows (taken from Title IV of the DMCA):

  1. Clarified and added to the duties of the Copyright Office.
  2. Added temporary copy for broadcaster's provisions, including certain statutory licenses.
  3. Added provisions to facilitate distance education.
  4. Added provisions to assist libraries with keeping copies of sound recordings (under fair use).
  5. Added provisions relating to collective bargaining and the transfer of movie rights.

These provisions relate to the functions of the Copyright Office, distance education, the exceptions in the Copyright Act for libraries and for making ephemeral recordings, "webcasting" of sound recordings on the Internet, and the applicability of collective bargaining agreement obligations in the case of transfers of rights in motion pictures.

  • Title V - "Vessel Hull Design Protection Act"

Title V creates a new form of protection for the design of vessel hulls. Previously, boat hull designs were not considered covered under copyright law because they were considered "useful articles" or articles whose form and function could not be clearly separated. This title also provides a summary of each of the previous four titles of the digital millennium copyright act for the purpose of enhancing understanding through improving readability and length.

The main points of the DMCA

Unfortunately the technical nature of the digital millennium copyright act does not aid in the reader in being able to easily understand the provisions and laws that are outlined therein. The complex and at times theoretical and intangible nature of the copyright works that the act aims to protect lend this legislation to almost necessitate a more lengthy and detailed explanation. So for those who prefer not to read through the entire digital millennium copyright act in order to obtain a basic understanding of it, will benefit from the following highlight and summary of the main points that are contained in that document.

The DMCA deals in large part with the use of software. Under the provisions provided for the lawful use of software the DMCA makes it clear that it is unlawful to circumvent anti-piracy measures built into most commercial software and outlaws the manufacture, sale, or distribution of code-cracking devices used to illegally copy software.

The DMCA does allow for some of these provisions to be temporarily overlooked in the case that a copyrighted device needs to be de-code or cracked for purposes of encryption research, assess product interoperability, and test computer security systems.

The DMCA provides exemptions from anti-circumvention provisions for nonprofit libraries, archives, and educational institutions under certain circumstances where the cause of education is compelling. On this same topic, the DMCA limits the liability of nonprofit institutions of higher education, under certain circumstances and when they serve as online service providers, for copyright infringement by faculty members or graduate students.

The DMCA provides protection to online or internet service providers by granting them pardon for copyright infringement when it is done simply by the posting or transmitting of information over the internet. When the service providers are made aware of the illegality of posting or transmitting such copyrighted information, they are expected to remove said materials from any of their sponsored websites as a condition of being pardoned from infringement or copyright violation.

In order to more effectively provide benefits to as many educational parties as possible (no matter their location), the DMCA requires that the individual registering for the copyright submit to Congress' recommendations regarding how to promote distance education through digital technologies. Of course, these recommendations are not meant to rob the copyright holder of their right to protect their own work, rather the recommendations are designed to bring awareness of the need for balance and compromise between the rights of copyright owners and the needs of global users.

The DMCA is not meant to deny any copyright holder of their ownership of any copyrighted materials; rather it is designed to eliminate some of the barriers that having a copyright may present to the efficient and effective improvement of processes and education. The copyright holder should still feel free to defend him or herself against those who are believed to be violating their copyrights. In fact the DMCA states that "nothing in this section shall affect rights, remedies, limitations, or defenses to copyright infringement, including fair use..."

Conclusion

The digital millennium copyright act was a necessary stepping stone between individual rights to protect works by registering and holding a copyright and the need for reasonable balance to use those copyrighted materials when function, security and education were of a higher priority. The DMCA was also a necessary act needed to acknowledge the changing nature of the exchange of information taking place on a more global scale due to the dramatically increasing use of the internet. The DMCA promotes greater progress and efficiency while still fully acknowledging the copyrights that the copyright holder is entitled to.

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