AfterDawn: Glossary

DMCA

An American legislation, called Digital Millennium Copyrights Act that outlaws distribution, sale, use and advertising of tools that allow circumventing copy protection mechanisms. Legislation also includes various other amendments to existing copyright legislation, such as "cease and desist" letter format for copyright holders when they wish to warn a website that hosts material on their site that violates copyright holder's rights.

There are five separate titles within the DMCA which outline specific rights the act protects.

Title I: WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act
DMCA Title I has two main portions, one of which covers several legislations already implemented in US copy prevention laws and the other which is often known as DMCA anti-circumvention provisions. The latter portion of this title gave way to laws being passed that made all analog video recorders come with a copy protection schema known at one time as Macrovision. This title also includes several guidelines against reverse engineering of a media product.

Title II: Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act
Often referred to as OCILLA, this act creates a safe zone for online service providers, including Internet Service Providers, against copyright prosecution if they adhere to guidelines and take actions to block against potential pirated materials on their network if they receive notice of infringement from companies involved proving they have been providing an outlet for copyright infringement. This act also provides a safe zone from the ISP's users should the material in question prove to be legitimate. The act would then relinquish liability from the ISP should the user decide to file complaints or lawsuits. OSCILLA also provides subpoenas for private information about their users.

Title III: Computer Maintenance Competition Assurance Act
Simply put, this act modified an existing section of the original copyright act stating that technicians who repair computers may make temporary backups of data, copyrighted or not, in the interest of preserving data for their client.

Title IV: Miscellaneous Provisions
DMCA Title IV provides the following provisions:

  • Clarified and put additional duties of the Copyright Office
  • Added provisions for ephemeral copy for broadcasters
  • Added provisions to aid distance education facilities
  • Added provisions to assist libraries in keeping copies of sound recordings
  • Added provisions in regards to the transfer of movie rights and collective bargaining
Title V: Vessel Hull Design Protection Act
In an act completely unrelated to digital media, Title V added sections to the original act in regards to the hull design of a boat. Boat hull designs are not viewed as copyrighted material because they are useful articles that cannot be separated from their intended function.

In addition to provisions made to provide safe harbors for legitimate uses for copyrighted materials, there are exemptions entered into the DMCA in which the act does not apply. Exemptions are granted when it can be shown that access control technology such as DRM has had an adverse effect on non-infringing uses of copyrighted material. Examples of some exemptions are as follows.
  • When circumvention is used to obtain portions of media for the purpose of education. Classrooms, Universities, media studies who use copyrighted materials for the purpose of educating students, an exemption is granted.
  • Computer programs and video games which utilize obsolete technologies in order to gain access to the media within. Circumvention may be used should a computer program or video game need to be used that requires hardware or other means that are no longer in use, provided the access is intended for archival processes or preservation by a library or archive. A format or hardware is considered obsolete if it cannot be reasonably obtained through the regular marketplace.
  • Computer programs protected by a dongle that prevent access to the media due to malfunction or damage and are considered obsolete.
  • Literary works distributed in ebook fashion when all existing ebook formats of the literary work, including digital text versions of the work distributed by an authorized party contain access control procedures which prevent "read aloud" technology or speech software from rendering text in their special format.
  • Computer programs in the form of firmware which allow wireless telephones to connect to a wireless communication network, when circumvention is used for lawfully connecting to said network.
  • Audio and audiovisual technologies that pose a risk or threat to personal computers when access via compact disk. Circumvention is allowed when it can be proven that the copyright protection scheme used posed a valid threat to the personal computer and the use of the circumvention is strictly for testing, investigating and and correcting such security flaws.
In 2000, the Copyright Office approved two exemptions. The first exemption is written as "Compilations consisting of lists of websites blocked by filtering software applications" and the second as "Literary works, including computer programs and databases, protected by access control mechanisms that fail to permit access because of malfunction, damage, or obsoleteness." The first of the two was reinstated in 2003, but not in 2006. The second was reinstated for both 2003 and 2006. In 2003 the two exemptions were reinstated and two exemptions were added. These exemptions were the literary exemption as listed above as well as the computer format exemption.

In a paper written by Timothy B. Lee of the Cato Institute, the DMCA was described as such: "The DMCA is anti-competitive. It gives copyright holders and the technology companies that distribute their content the legal power to create closed technology platforms and exclude competitors from interoperating with them. Worst of all, DRM technologies are clumsy and ineffective; they inconvenience legitimate users but do little to stop pirates."

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