DMCA: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act


On October 12, 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The law became effective in October 2000 and it has been incorporated into the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the U. S. Code). This landmark legislation updated U.S. copyright law to meet the demands of the Digital Age and to conform U.S. law to the requirements of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and treaties that the U.S. signed in 1996.

Despite the work of libraries and other partners, dedicated to preserving the traditional balance in copyright law between protecting information and affording access to it, the DMCA tilts strongly in favor of copyright holders. In addition to creating new rules for digital materials, the DMCA mandates several important studies and reports to be conducted by the U.S. Copyright Office and sets the time frames for their completion.

Divided in to five "titles," the DMCA is a complex act that addresses a number of issues that are of concern to libraries. Among its many provision, the Act:

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DMCA and Libraries

The following summarizes the key sections of the DMCA that relate to libraries. For more in-depth analysis of the DMCA and its impact on libraries:

Title I: New Prohibitions On Circumvention Of Protection Technologies:

Title II: Limitations On Online Service Provider Liability

Title IV: Digital Preservation

This section updates the current preservation provision of the Copyright Act (Sec. 108) to:

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DMCA Mandates

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The Legacy of DMCA

Five years after passage, the DMCA continues to be a controversial act with far-reaching impact that is supporting the attempts of copyright holders to control access to and downstream use of their content. The doctrine of "fair use" has never more been threatened than it is now. There have been several important court cases based on challenges to provisions in the DMCA and some new legislation is under consideration to redress the balance some believe has been undermined by this law. ALA has contributed "friends of the court" briefs in some of the legal cases (Universal v. Remeirdes, a.k.a. "the DVD case") and vigilantly tracks Congressional activities that bear on the abilities of libraries to provide service to their communities. CLICK ON: The "Copyright Court Cases" section in the left hand navigation tree for a link to this case.

The controversy surrounding the DMCA continues also in attempts to pass legislation that seeks to protect fair use in the digital environment and to extend the control of copyright owners. ALA carefully monitors all of these legislative activities.

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Other Information

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Related Files

Library Preservation: Changes to DMCA (11/12/98) (PDF File)
Memo: Sec. 108(a)(3) Notice Requirements (PDF File)
OITP Intellectual Property Fact Sheet (PDF File)
Analysis of the DMCA by Jonathan Band, Morrison & Foerester, LLP (PDF File)
Library Preservation: Changes incorporated in the DMCA (PDF File)
DMCA & Libraries Primer (PDF File)

Related Links

(August 11, 2003) NTIA letter to the Library of Congress re: rulemaking, DMCA Section 1201(a)(1)
Electronic Frontier Foundation
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
DMCA, U.S. Copyright Office Summary, Dec. 1998
Copyright Act (U.S. C. Title 17)
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)