Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a controversial United States copyright law which criminalizes production and dissemination of technology that can circumvent measures taken to protect copyright, not merely infringement of copyright itself, and heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet. Passed on May 14, 1998 by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended title 17 of the US Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of Online Providers from copyright infringement by their users.

On March 10, 2004 the European Union passed the EU Copyright Directive or EUCD, similar in many ways to the DMCA.

DMCA Title I: WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act

Main article: WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act

DMCA Title I has two major portions, one of which includes works covered by several treaties in US copy prevention laws and gave the title its name and the other which is often known as the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions. The latter implemented a broad ban on the circumvention of copy prevention systems and required that all analogue video recorders have copy prevention built in.

DMCA Title II: Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act

Main article: Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA)

DMCA Title II creates a safe harbor for online service providers (OSPs, including ISPs ) against copyright liability if they promptly block access if they receive a notification from a copyright holder or their agent. It also includes a counter-notification which requires restoration of the material and a provision for subpoenas to identify alleged infringers.

DMCA Title III: Computer Maintenance Competition Assurance Act

DMCA Title III modified section 117 of copyright law so that those repairing computers could make certain temporary, limited copies while working on a computer.

DMCA Title IV: Miscellaneous Provisions

DMCA Title IV contains an assortment of provisions:

  • Clarified and added to the duties of the Copyright Office.
  • Added ephemeral copy for broadcasters provisions, including certain statutory licenses.
  • Added provisions to facilitate distance education.
  • Added provisions to assist libraries with keeping copies of sound recordings.
  • Added provisions relating to collective bargaining and the transfer of movie rights.

DMCA Title V: Vessel Hull Design Protection Act

DMCA Title V added sections 1301 through 1332 to add protection for boat hull designs.

As useful articles whose form cannot be cleanly separated from their function, boat hull designs were formerly not protected under copyright law.


There are efforts in Congress to modify the Act. Rick Boucher, a Democratic congressman from Virginia, is leading one of these efforts by introducing the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA).

A prominent bill related to the DMCA is the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA), known in early drafts as the Security Systems and Standards Certification Act (SSSCA). This bill, if passed, would deal with the devices used to access digital content and would be even more restrictive than the DMCA.

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