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U.S. Copy­right Office Sum­mary

Decem­ber 1998


The Digit­al Mil­len­ni­um Copy­right Act (DMCA)1 was signed into law by Pres­id­ent Clin­ton on Octo­ber 28, 1998. The legis­la­tion imple­ments two 1996 World Intel­lec­tu­al Prop­er­ty Organ­iz­a­tion (WIPO) treat­ies: the WIPO Copy­right Treaty and the WIPO Per­form­ances and Phono­grams Treaty. The DMCA also addresses a num­ber of oth­er sig­ni­fic­ant copy­right-related issues.

The DMCA is divided into five titles:

! Title I, the “WIPO Copy­right and Per­form­ances and Phono­grams Treat­ies Imple­ment­a­tion Act of 1998,” imple­ments the WIPO treat­ies.

! Title II, the “Online Copy­right Infringe­ment Liab­il­ity Lim­it­a­tion Act,” cre­ates lim­it­a­tions on the liab­il­ity of online ser­vice pro­viders for copy­right infringe­ment when enga­ging in cer­tain types of activ­it­ies.

! Title III, the “Computer Main­ten­ance Com­pet­i­tion Assur­ance Act,” cre­ates an exemp­tion for mak­ing a copy of a com­puter pro­gram by activ­at­ing a com­puter for pur­poses of main­ten­ance or repair.

! Title IV con­tains six mis­cel­laneous pro­vi­sions, relat­ing to the func­tions of the Copy­right Office, dis­tance edu­ca­tion, the excep­tions in the Copy­right Act for lib­rar­ies and for mak­ing eph­em­er­al record­ings, “webcasting” of sound record­ings on the Inter­net, and the applic­ab­il­ity of col­lect­ive bar­gain­ing agree­ment oblig­a­tions in the case of trans­fers of rights in motion pic­tures.

! Title V, the “Vessel Hull Design Pro­tec­tion Act,” cre­ates a new form of pro­tec­tion for the design of ves­sel hulls.

This memor­andum sum­mar­izes briefly each title of the DMCA. It provides merely an over­view of the law’s pro­vi­sions; for pur­poses of length and read­ab­il­ity a sig­ni­fic­ant amount of detail has been omit­ted. A com­plete under­stand­ing of any pro­vi­sion of the DMCA requires ref­er­ence to the text of the legis­la­tion itself.

1Pub. L. No. 105 – 304, 112 Stat. 2860 (Oct. 281998).

Title I imple­ments the WIPO treat­ies. First, it makes cer­tain tech­nic­al amend­ments to U.S. law, in order to provide appro­pri­ate ref­er­ences and links to the treat­ies. Second, it cre­ates two new pro­hib­i­tions in Title 17 of the U.S. Code—one on cir­cum­ven­tion of tech­no­lo­gic­al meas­ures used by copy­right own­ers to pro­tect their works and one on tam­per­ing with copy­right man­age­ment information—and adds civil rem­ed­ies and crim­in­al pen­al­ties for viol­at­ing the pro­hib­i­tions. In addi­tion, Title I requires the U.S. Copy­right Office to per­form two joint stud­ies with the Nation­al Tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions and Inform­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion of the Depart­ment of Com­mer­ce (NTIA).

Tech­nic­al Amend­ments

Nation­al Eli­gib­il­ity

The WIPO Copy­right Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Per­form­ances and Phono­grams Treaty (WPPT) each require mem­ber coun­tries to provide pro­tec­tion to cer­tain works from oth­er mem­ber coun­tries or cre­ated by nation­als of oth­er mem­ber coun­tries. That pro­tec­tion must be no less favor­able than that accor­ded to domest­ic works.

Sec­tion 104 of the Copy­right Act estab­lishes the con­di­tions of eli­gib­il­ity for pro­tec­tion under U.S. law for works from oth­er coun­tries. Sec­tion 102(b) of the DMCA amends sec­tion 104 of the Copy­right Act and adds new defin­i­tions to sec­tion 101 of the Copy­right Act in order to extend the pro­tec­tion of U.S. law to those works required to be pro­tec­ted under the WCT and the WPPT.

Res­tor­a­tion of Copy­right Pro­tec­tion

Both treat­ies require parties to pro­tect preex­ist­ing works from oth­er mem­ber coun­tries that have not fallen into the pub­lic domain in the coun­try of ori­gin through the expiry of the term of pro­tec­tion. A sim­il­ar oblig­a­tion is con­tained in both the Berne Con­ven­tion and the TRIPS Agree­ment. In 1995 this oblig­a­tion was imple ­men­ted in the Uruguay Round Agree­ments Act, cre­at­ing a new sec­tion 104A in the Copy­right Act to restore pro­tec­tion to works from Berne or WTO mem­ber coun­tries that are still pro­tec­ted in the coun­try of ori­gin, but fell into the pub­lic domain in the United States in the past because of a fail­ure to com­ply with form­al­it­ies that then exis­ted in U.S. law, or due to a lack of treaty rela­tions. Sec­tion 102© of the DMCA amends sec­tion 104A to restore copy­right pro­tec­tion in the same cir­cum­stances to works from WCT and WPPT mem­ber coun­tries.

Regis­tra­tion as a Pre­requis­ite to Suit

The remain­ing tech­nic­al amend­ment relates to the pro­hib­i­tion in both treat­ies again­st con­di­tion­ing the exer­cise or enjoy­ment of rights on the ful­fill­ment of form­al­it­ies. Sec­tion 411(a) of the Copy­right Act requires claims to copy­right to be registered with the Copy­right Office before a law­suit can be ini­ti­ated by the copy­right own­er, but exempts many for­eign works in order to com­ply with exist­ing treaty oblig­a­tions under the Berne Con­ven­tion. Sec­tion 102(d) of the DMCA amends sec­tion 411(a) by broad­en­ing the exemp­tion to cov­er all for­eign works.

Tech­no­lo­gic­al Pro­tec­tion and Copy­right Man­age­ment Sys­tems

Each of the WIPO treat­ies con­tains vir­tu­ally identic­al lan­guage oblig­at­ing mem­ber states to pre­vent cir­cum­ven­tion of tech­no­lo­gic­al meas­ures used to pro­tect copy­righted works, and to pre­vent tam­per­ing with the integ­rity of copy­right man­age­ment inform­a­tion. These oblig­a­tions serve as tech­no­lo­gic­al adjuncts to the exclus­ive rights gran­ted by copy­right law. They provide leg­al pro­tec­tion that the inter­na­tion­al copy­right com­munity deemed crit­ic­al to the safe and effi­cient exploit­a­tion of works on digit­al net­works.

Cir­cum­ven­tion of Tech­no­lo­gic­al Pro­tec­tion Meas­ures

Gen­er­al approach

Art­icle 11 of the WCT states:

Con­tract­ing Parties shall provide adequate leg­al pro­tec ­tion and effect­ive leg­al rem­ed­ies again­st the cir­cum­ven ­tion of effect­ive tech­no­lo­gic­al meas­ures that are used by authors in con­nec­tion with the exer­cise of their rights under this Treaty or the Berne Con­ven­tion and that restrict acts, in respect of their works, which are not author­ized by the authors con­cerned or per­mit­ted by law.

Art­icle 18 of the WPPT con­tains nearly identic­al lan­guage.

Sec­tion 103 of the DMCA adds a new chapter 12 to Title 17 of the U.S. Code. New sec­tion 1201 imple­ments the oblig­a­tion to provide adequate and effect­ive pro­tec­tion again­st cir­cum­ven­tion of tech­no­lo­gic­al meas­ures used by copy­right own­ers to pro­tect their works.

Sec­tion 1201 divides tech­no­lo­gic­al meas­ures into two cat­egor­ies: meas­ures that pre­vent unau­thor­ized access to a copy­righted work and meas­ures that pre­vent

Copy­right Office Sum­mary Decem­ber 1998 Page 3

unau­thor­ized copy­ing2 of a copy­righted work. Mak­ing or selling devices or ser­vices that are used to cir­cum­vent either cat­egory of tech­no­lo­gic­al meas­ure is pro­hib­ited in cer­tain cir­cum­stances, described below. As to the act of cir­cum­ven­tion in itself, the pro­vi­sion pro­hib­its cir­cum­vent­ing the first cat­egory of tech­no­lo­gic­al meas­ures, but not the second.