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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 alsoaddresses 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 copyrightinfringement 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 forlibraries 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 theDMCA. 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.


Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2860 (Oct. 28, 1998).

Copyright Office Summary

December 1998

Page 1

The DigitalMillennium Copyright Act of 1998

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 andone 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 worksfrom 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 notfallen 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 implemented 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...
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