What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) became law several years ago and expanded copyright to address several issues regarding computers and the internet. Some of the more important provisions of the DCMA are:

Title 1: The anti-circumvention provisions change the remedies for circumventing copy-prevention technology placed onto music and movie discs. It also provided funding for the government to begin research for new anti-copy technology as well as reverse engineer software.

Title 2: The Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act provides that the Internet Service Provider (and other parties who play similar roles) will not be liable for copyright infringement in certain circumstances:

a. In order to maintain its protection from liability, the ISP must follow the procedures set forth in the statute regarding registration with the Copyright Office, receipt of a claim of infringement, removal of the item allegedly infringing, notice to the infringer, and other steps as set forth in the DCMA. These are exactly the steps that Metallica and Napster followed when Metallica asserted a claim of infringement by users of the Napster site.

b. Regarding temporary storage and transmission of infringing materials.

c. Regarding linking users to a site that contains infringing materials.

d. Regarding the storage of infringing materials at the directions of users.

The act also provides circumstances in which making a copy of software for maintenance purposes is permitted. Such as when the copies are permitted by the copyright holder.

Title 3: The Computer Maintenance Competition Assurance Act made an exception for backup and computer repair companies so that they are free to copy the content of a computer before resetting its memory. This was a direct reversal of the case MAI Systems Corp. v. Peak Computer, Inc. The law had previously made it illegal for computer repair companies to copy the computer’s contents during the repair process.

Title 4: The DMCA’s title four provided assistance and exceptions to certain organizations that require the ability to digitize files for public use. This provision included exceptions for radio broadcasters, distance learning centers, and libraries. It also allowed a new form of collective bargaining for movie studios with regard to granting licensing of films.

In general, the DMCA created a series of laws to protect film and music producers from unauthorized reproduction through modern technology. This law was the cornerstone in cracking down on companies such as Napster and other free-download methods.