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Indiana University

What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is legislation enacted by the United States Congress in October 1998 that made major changes to the US Copyright Act. These changes were necessary in part to bring US copyright law into compliance with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances Phonograms Treaty. The DMCA also strengthened the legal protection of intellectual property rights in the wake of emerging new information communication technologies, i.e., the Internet.

The DMCA has five titles, or sections, with Title II having the most immediate impact on the Indiana University community. Title II outlines certain legal duties with which Online Service Providers (OSPs) must comply in order to limit their legal liabilities in the event a user of their service violates copyright laws. An OSP is defined as "an entity offering the transmission, routing, or providing of connections for digital online communications". For purposes of the DMCA, IU is regarded as an OSP for users of the IU information technology infrastructure.

According to the DMCA, an OSP is required to register an official agent with the US Copyright Office. This agent is the designated official to be notified by a copyright holder in the event of an alleged copyright infringement by anyone whose OSP is IU. Merri Beth Lavagnino of the Indiana University Information Policy Office (UIPO) is the registered DMCA agent for IU.

The OSP is obligated to provide all users with reasonable access to information about the OSP's policies and standard procedures for dealing with copyright infringement notifications. The OSP is also obligated to inform users when their accounts and services will be terminated due to repeated violation of copyright or other intellectual property laws. For information on IU's procedures, see Copyright Infringement Incident Resolution.

The copyright owner can choose to either send complaints through the OSP for action, or serve legal notice to the infringer directly. Pleading a lack of knowledge about copyright infringement laws will not excuse the user from legal consequences. It is the user's responsibility to be aware of these legal consequences. For this reason, IU strongly encourages users to educate themselves about the current state of copyright law as it applies to file sharing over the Internet, and to keep up to date on changes to copyright legislation. For more information, see What happens if I receive a copyright infringement notice, and how can I avoid it? Additionally, you can take the File Sharing Copyright Tutorial.

For more information about file sharing, see the UIPO's File Sharing @ IU page.