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Copyright - Digital Millennium Copyright Act

dmca copyrighted libraries service

Copyright laws have had to evolve in order to protect the interests of owners of copyrights from infringement through transfer of digital copies of protected works. INTERNET users may employ a myriad of methods to transmit digital files, and much of the information contained in these files consists of copyrighted works. Given the sheer number of Internet users—estimated by some at more than 500 million in 2002—and trillions of pages on the World Wide Web, protection of electronic publications and media is a global concern.

In 1998, then-President WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON signed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2860 (17 U.S.C.A. §§ 101 et seq.) into law following a 99-0 vote in the U.S. Senate. This legislation was the focus of intense LOBBYING efforts on the part of a wide range of interest groups. These groups included TELECOMMUNICATIONS companies and online service providers; consumer-electronics manufacturers, library, museum, and university groups; and the publishing, recording, film, and software industries. The primary goal of this legislation was to adapt U.S. copyright laws for the digital age.

Passage of the DMCA was also required for the United States to keep pace with changes in international copyright treaties. In December 1996, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), an agency of the UNITED NATIONS, negotiated the Copyright Treaty and the Performances and Phonograms Treaty at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. WIPO is responsible for the advancement and safeguarding of intellectual property throughout the world, and it has 170 member countries.

The treaties, ratified in 2002, provide increased protection for copyrighted materials in the digital world. By signing, each country agrees to put into place laws, based on their own legal system, in order to enforce the treaties. The DMCA serves that purpose for the United States.

The DMCA consists of five main sections: WIPO Treaties Implementation, Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation, Computer Maintenance or Repair Copyright Exemption, Miscellaneous Provisions, and Protection of Certain Original Designs. Title I, WIPO Treaties Implementation, contains an "anti-circumvention" provision, making it illegal to "manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof," for the primary purpose of "circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to" a copyrighted work. Thus, technologies that are designed to protect digital material are safeguarded.

Moreover, this provision makes the act of circumventing a "technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected" by copyright illegal. Every three years, the librarian of Congress, the register of copyrights, and the assistant secretary for communications and information of the COMMERCE DEPARTMENT must determine whether people with legitimate noninfringing uses of copyrighted materials are being unfavorably affected by the law. The law does state that fair use is not affected, but this nevertheless has been a controversial provision. Libraries, museums, and scholars were concerned about digital materials only being available on a pay-per-use basis. An exemption was included for nonprofit libraries, archives, and educational institutions allowing them to circumvent technical protection measures for the purpose of determining whether or not to purchase the copyrighted work.

Title I of the DMCA contains another addition to U.S. copyright law required by the WIPO treaties. This section prohibits the deletion or alteration of information associated with copyrighted material. Organizations will benefit from this provision because it will help protect information and images on their web sites. Furthermore, it prohibits the distribution of false copyright-management information. The DMCA provides for civil and criminal enforcement. However, archives, schools, nonprofit libraries, and public broadcasting stations are exempt from criminal prosecution.

The DCMA also limits the liability for copyright infringement by providing safe harbors for online service providers. The definition of an online service provider is generous. Other organizations may qualify for protection, which could be useful if they provide Internet access, have a company bulletin board or inhouse E-MAIL system, or chat rooms. Prior to the passage of the DMCA, online service providers could have been liable if infringing materials were posted on their sites, even if they were unaware of the problem. The DMCA explains the responsibilities of copyright owners and service providers. Under specific conditions, online service providers are exempt from having to pay monetary damages as long as they are not benefiting financially from infringing activity and as long as they remove the material promptly from the Internet.

Limitations have also been set on exclusive rights for computer programs. A provision allows users to copy programs that are needed in order to maintain and repair a machine. Any such copies must be destroyed as soon as the machine is repaired, however.

One significant exemption for libraries and archives was included in Title IV of the DMCA. Up to three copies may be made of a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner for research use in other libraries or archives through interlibrary loan. The word "facsimile" has been struck from the former copyright law, thus allowing for digital formats. Libraries and archives can now loan digital copies of works to other libraries and archives by electronic means. Copies for preservation and security purposes are also permitted when the existing format in which the material is stored becomes outdated, or if the work is lost, stolen, damaged, or deteriorating.

Title IV also established guidelines for licensing and ROYALTIES in regard to copyrighted music transmitted over the Internet and in other digital forms. Transmissions are not subject to licensing if transmitted with encoded copyright information and with permission from the copyright owner of the sound recording.

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