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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
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 actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet.
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 on-line services for copyright infringement by their users.
The DMCA's principal innovation in the field of copyright, the exemption from direct and indirect liability of internet service providers and other intermediaries, was adopted by the European Union in the Electronic Commerce Directive 2000. The Copyright Directive 2001 implemented the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty in the EU.
The law is currently unsettled with regard to websites that contain links to infringing material; however, there have been a few lower-court decisions which have ruled against linking in some narrowly prescribed circumstances.
One is when the owner of a website has already been issued an injunction against posting infringing material on their website and then links to the same material in an attempt to circumvent the injunction.
Another area involves linking to software or devices which are designed to circumvent op(digital rights management) devices, or links from websites whose sole purpose is to circumvent copyright protection by linking to copyrighted material.
In the online world, the potentially infringing activities of individuals are stored and transmitted through the networks of third parties. Web site hosting services, Internet service providers, and search engines that link to materials on the Web are just some of the service providers that transmit materials created by others.
Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) protects online service providers (OSPs) from liability for information posted or transmitted by subscribers if they quickly remove or disable access to material identified in a copyright holder's complaint.
In order to qualify for safe harbor protection, a service provider who hosts content must:
•have no knowledge of, or financial benefit from, infringing activity on its network
•have a copyright policy and provide proper notification of that policy to its subscribers
•list an agent to deal with copyright complaints
While the safe harbor provisions provide a way for individuals to object to the removal of their materials once taken down, they do not require service providers to notify those individuals before their allegedly infringing materials are removed. If the material on your site does not infringe the intellectual property rights of a copyright owner and it has been improperly removed from the Web, you can file a counter-notice with the service provider, who must transmit it to the person who made the complaint. If the copyright owner does not notify the service provider within 14 business days that it has filed a claim against you in court, your materials can be restored to the Internet.
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