DMCA Definition: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act Explained

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA is currently one of the laws of the land when it comes to online intellectual property issues.

Lately, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has stepped into the spotlight as a result of the ongoing SOPA and PIPA debates. Passed unanimously on October 12, 1998, the DMCA is the current law of the land when it comes to various online copyright legalities.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act amended Title 17 of the United States Code, extended copyright reach, established new anti-circumvention laws, limited the liability of online service providers (OSPs), and made boat hull designs a protected class. The bill was broken out into five sections — below is a summary of each.

DMCA Title I: WIPO Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act

The first section of the DMCA changed the law so U.S. Code complied with the WIPO Treaty. It’s the portion of the act that addresses various anti-circumvention statues. Anti-circumvention laws dictate what one can and cannot do with a piece of technology.

Title I of the DMCA also disallows for reverse engineering in certain instances; and, perhaps unintentionally, the Act effectively created a monopoly for Macrovision in the video recording copyright prevention arena.

DMCA Title II: Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act

Perhaps the most talked about part of the DMCA falls under Title II of the bill. It’s the part that absolves ISPs, OSPs and certain website operators of liability when users of their site commit acts of intellectual property infringement.

Title II also outlines the notification steps one must take if they feel a website has infringed on their intellectual property rights – a document that has come to be known as a “DMCA Takedown notice.” This section also details what one can do if they’ve been sent a DMCA Takedown notice and want to fight the claim.

Title II also outlines provisions that allow for subpoenas to service providers for users’ identities.

DMCA Title III: The Computer Maintenance and Competition Assurance Act

Essentially, Title III of the DMCA makes way for computer repair professionals to create temporary back-up copies of certain digital information when working on a project, without fear of prosecution.

Title IV: Miscellaneous Regulations

DMCA Title IV of the DMCA is a potpourri of various statues. The section spells out the role of the Copy Right Office of the United States; sets transient statues for broadcasters; establishes rules to allow for long distance education; outlines phonorecord provisions for libraries with recording collections; and lastly, section IV outlines a collective bargaining agreement that has to do with movie rights.

DMCA Title V: The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act

The last section – Title V – of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has very little to do with the digital millennium. Instead, Title V deals with boat hull designs. Previously, boat hull designs were treated as utilitarian and therefore didn’t qualify for copyright protection. The DMCA, however, reversed this stance, thus making it possible for boat hull designers to register their designs for intellectual property protections.

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