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Copyright Tutorial: DMCA

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) was enacted in 1998 and prohibits the circumvention of protection devices. It also prohibits the manufacturing and selling of circumvention devices used to defeat copy control measures. There is no Fair Use under the DMCA for evaluation or educational purposes.

It also required the Copyright Office to make "recommendations...to facilitate the use of digital technologies in Distance Education". The Copyright Office report was issued in 1999 and its most salient points include:


  • the performance of media over the Web or via educational television
  • the use of dramatic works to be allowed
  • the recognition that distance learning can take place in situations other than the classroom
  • protections for publishers/authors from unauthorized duplication, including access by enrolled students only, password protections, and legal penalties for circumventing encryption prevention devices.

The DMCA did give libraries the right to make up to three copies of out of print items is a copy is damaged, lost or stolen. Computer programs are the only media for which libraries are allowed to make a back up copy (as long as only one copy circulates).

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Lori Bryan
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