Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Enacted in 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was the legislative response to U.S. implementation of the World Intellectual Property (WIPO) copyright treaty (The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998: U.S. Copyright Office Summary. 1998). Passage of this and similar legislation resulted largely in the Internet as we know it today–a compromise between copyright holders, who seek to protect their content from rampant reproduction and distribution via the Web, and Internet Service Providers (ISP), who want limited liability for content users’ indiscriminate infringement activities on their networks. At a local level, provisions in the DMCA significantly affect campus file sharing behavior at George Mason University.

Section 512(c) of the DMCA specifically limits the liability of the University, as the ISP for our community, for copyright infringements made by students, faculty, and staff. This protection is granted as long as the University:

  • has no knowledge of the infringing activity,
  • does not receive a financial benefit directly connected to infringing activity over which it has control,
  • removes or blocks access to material, upon receipt of a notice claiming copyright infringement,
  • has a written copyright policy, and
  • has a designated agent, registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, to whom DMCA notices may be sent.

What are the required elements for composing a legitimate DMCA cease-and-desist notice or counter notice? Here are a couple of websites–Automattic and YouTube–that suggest language. Or you may read the full text of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PDF). Refer to the Directory of Service Provider Agents, maintained by the U.S. Copyright Office, for a list of registered contacts to whom you may send a cease-and-desist notice. Only copyright owners, or their assignees, may submit a DMCA notice.

Bogus copyright complaints stifle creative expression on the Internet, as illustrated by the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Takedown Hall of Shame. See these examples of lame DMCA notices for situations in which a DMCA notice should not have been sent.

Individuals may report cease-and-desist notices sent or received to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse.