What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

In a previous post, I shared about the importance of the Copyright Act of 1976. That act really defines copyright protection in the United States and protects both the copyright holder and the consumer in many different ways.


The Digital Millenium Copyright Act however takes the Copyright Act of 1976 to another level. Known as the DMCA, it was passed in 1998 and gives more protection for copyright holders in regards to intellectual property and sharing technologies ie the internet.


The Future of Music Coalition presents a very detailed and informative description of the DMCA. You can read that description here, one which includes details about the five divisions of the DMCA:



  • Title One: WIPO Treaty Implementation
  • Title Two: Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation
  • Title Three: Computer Maintenance or Repair
  • Title Four: Miscellaneous Provisions
  • Title Five: Protection of Certain Original Designs


It is important to realize that this law came about around the same time and in response to programs like Napster and Limewire, file sharing programs that contributed to unlicensed music sharing. The internet became a playground for unauthorized sharing of music and content. Thus, the need for the DMCA.

It is also important to note that music is not the only industry that the DMCA affects.

Briefly, the DMCA stipulates the following conditions:

  • It is a crime to circumvent anti-piracy measures that are built into commercial software.
  • It is a crime to manufacture, sell or distribute code-cracking devices that illegally copy software. However, it is not a crime to crack copyright protection devices in order to conduct encryption research, assess product interoperability or test the security of computer systems.
  • Under certain circumstances, nonprofit libraries, archives and education institutions are exempt from the anti-circumvention provisions.
  • The copyright infringement liability of ISPs that simply transmit information over the Internet is limited. However, ISPs must remove material from users’ Web sites that appears to constitute copyright infringement.
  • The liability for copyright infringement by faculty members and graduate students of nonprofit institutions of higher education is limited when the institutions serve as ISPs and under certain circumstances.
  • Webcasters must pay licensing fees to record companies.
  • The Register of Copyrights must submit to Congress recommendations regarding how to promote distance education through digital technologies while “maintaining an appropriate balance between the rights of copyright owners and the needs of users.”

Sourced from webopedia.com

One of the goals of the DMCA is to comply with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, both of which were ratified by over 50 countries around the world in 1996.

The WIPO describes themselves this way on their website:

WIPO is the global forum for intellectual property services, policy, information and cooperation. We are a self-funding agency of the United Nations, with 188 member states.

Our mission is to lead the development of a balanced and effective international intellectual property (IP) system that enables innovation and creativity for the benefit of all. Our mandate, governing bodies and procedures are set out in the WIPO Convention, which established WIPO in 1967.


The WIPO copyright treaty is described this way:

The WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) is a special agreement under the Berne Convention that deals with the protection of works and the rights of their authors in the digital environment. Any Contracting Party (even if it is not bound by the Berne Convention) must comply with the substantive provisions of the 1971 (Paris) Act of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886). Furthermore, the WCT mentions two subject matters to be protected by copyright: (i) computer programs, whatever the mode or form of their expression; and (ii) compilations of data or other material (“databases”), in any form, which, by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents, constitute intellectual creations. (Where a database does not constitute such a creation, it is outside the scope of this Treaty.)


The purpose of all of this information is to inform consumers, musicians and copyright holders of the immense protection that is available to them. Through the DMCA, WIPO and the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright holders and consumers benefit from intense levels of legal protection.