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Copyright: DMCA

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA; Chapter 12, Sec. 1201 and 1202) was written to address intellectual property in the digital environment and to update the Copyright law of 1976.

Restrictions under the DMCA
Title 1 of the DMCA covers anti-circumvention and technological protection measures (TPM) that protect digital intellectual property. By law it is illegal to circumvent or decrypt these protections, even if Fair Use permits your intended use. It is also illegal to manufacture and to traffic any technology or service that is designed to circumvent a TPM. (Section 1201)

The DMCA also prohibits removing the copyright management information contained on a copyrighted work. (Sect. 1202)

How Does the DMCA affect my teaching?
Generally, it is illegal to circumvent TPMs on audiovisual works to create compilations of clips. You must scroll or scan to the section of the video you wish to show. There is, however, an exemption that applies to faculty of any department or discipline using motion pictures on DVD. Faculty are permitted to circumvent TPMs of "lawfully made and acquired" motion pictures on DVD solely to incorporate "short portions" into new works "for the purpose of criticism or comment" when it is necessary to carry out an educational use. This rule also covers "college and university film and media studies students." Beyond explicit educational uses, the exemption also covers anyone who uses small portions of motion pictures in "documentary filmmaking and noncommercial videos." There is no definition of "short portions." See "Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works."

The DMCA Rules for Internet Service Providers
When acting as a service provider, the University must abide by the legal requirements of the DMCA. The DMCA stipulates that “On receipt of an acceptably complete claim of infringement, DMCA (512) (g) requires [the university] to direct prompt removal of material or removal of all local or wide-area network access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing.” Whether the claim is accurate or not, the alleged infringing material will be taken down. The infringer has recourse to file a counter claim.

For a detailed outline of UM DMCA procedures see Guidelines for DMCA  Agents.

Consequences (Liability)
The consequences of violating this law are severe, depending upon whether infringement is found to be willful or not. Actual or statutory damages may apply. See DMCA Civil remedies, Section 1203, and Criminal offenses and penalties, Section 1204.
University employees have some protection under the law (Section 1203(c)(5)).

Innocent violations-

  • `(A) IN GENERAL- The court in its discretion may reduce or remit the total award of damages in any case in which the violator sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that the violator was not aware and had no reason to believe that its acts constituted a violation.
  • `(B) NONPROFIT LIBRARY, ARCHIVES, OR EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS- In the case of a nonprofit library, archives, or educational institution, the court shall remit damages in any case in which the library, archives, or educational institution sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that the library, archives, or educational institution was not aware and had no reason to believe that its acts constituted a violation. 


Nothing on this guide is to be construed as legal advice. These pages are intended to provide information and guidance in the application of copyright law and to expand on the University of Missouri System Collected Rules and Regulations.

Thanks to Miller Nichols Library of UMKC for permission to reuse material from their Copyright guide.