Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed by the United States Congress on October 12, 1998, after months of tense debates over its provisions. President Clinton signed the Act into law two weeks later, on October 28th.

The Act is intended to implement the treaties negotiated at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Geneva conference in December 1996, but it also includes other measures dealing with related issues.

The bill was initially supported by the software and entertainment companies, but scientists, librarians, and academics opposed it, as was the case with the ‘No Electronic Theft’ Act (1997).

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Some Basic Principles

It is now illegal to get beyond anti-piracy protections integrated into most commercial software.

The manufacturing, marketing, or distribution of code-cracking equipment that are used to illegally copy software is prohibited.

However, in order to undertake encryption research, analyse product compatibility, and test computer security systems, it is necessary to crack copyright protection mechanisms.

Under certain conditions, nonprofit libraries, archives, and educational institutions are excluded from anti-circumvention regulations.

In general, protects Internet service providers from liability for copyright infringement simply by sending data over the Internet.

Service providers, on the other hand, are expected to delete information from users’ websites that appears to be infringing on copyright.

Limits the liability of nonprofit higher education institutions for copyright infringement by faculty or graduate students when they serve as online service providers and in specific conditions.

Several Years Later

Several years after its passage, the DMCA remains a contentious law with far-reaching implications, supporting copyright holders’ efforts to regulate access to and downstream use of their property. The notion of “fair use” has never been in jeopardy as much as it is right now. There have been several high-profile court decisions involving challenges to DMCA provisions, and new legislation is being considered to restore the balance that some say has been skewed by the statute. The American Library Association has written “friends of the court” briefs in some of the legal issues (such as Universal v. Remeirdes, a.k.a. “the DVD case”) and closely monitors Congressional activity that affect libraries’ ability to serve their communities.

Freedom of speech also fits in with the law and of course the development of social media of which sharing content is key to how many people live today.

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