The DMCA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a is a U.S. copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization. It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works. It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is an actual infringement of copyright itself. Also, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet.

To amend title 17, United States Code, to implement the World Intellectual Property Organization Copyright Treaty and Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and for other purposes. -long title

Passed on October 12, 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 United States Code to extend the reach of copyright while limiting the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users.

The principal innovation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the field of copyright is the exemption from direct and indirect liability of Internet service providers and other intermediaries. The European Union adopted this exemption in the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000. The Copyright Directive 2001 implemented the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty in the EU.

Please read the Wikipedia article for a more in-depth explanation. You may also click here to view the official U.S. Copyright Office Summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

DMCA Takedown

A website may remove content at the request of the owner of the content or the owner of the copyright of the content.

DMCA - ONO by Tactical Technology Collective

This is how you usually react to a DMCA takedown notice.
Image source: Tactical Technology Collective via Flickr.

Abuse of takedown notice

Music companies have urged Google to prevent searches of copyright infringing material by sending them a multitude of takedown notices, but despite these efforts, many top search results on Google are still these materials in question. The DMCA also includes the safe harbor provision which protects websites from taking the blame when it comes to copyright takedowns. Some sites profit from the violation of copyrights, but because of this loophole, they are not held responsible.

Google asserted misuse of the DMCA in a filing concerning New Zealand’s copyright act, quoting results from a 2005 study by California academics Laura Quilter and Jennifer Urban based on data from the Chilling Effects clearinghouse. Takedown notices targeting a competing business made up over half (57%) of the notices Google has received, the company said, and more than one-third (37%), “were not valid copyright claims.”

Currently, there are three primary cases of abuse of the DMCA. First, takedown notices supersede the fair use doctrine which goes against the freedom of speech act. Second, if the person sending the takedowns do not own the copyright to the material they are claiming, the legitimate owner’s copyrights are then violated for 10–14 days while the takedown notices process. Third, the DMCA has been used to invoke censorship rather than to protect legitimate copyright holder’s rights online. Source: Wikipedia