Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DCMA

DCMA or Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a 1998 Public Law 105-304, which added a new Chapter twelve to title 17 of the United States code. Among other things DCMA prohibits circumvention of accessing control technologies utilized by copyright owners in the protection of their pieces of work. Section 1201 provides specifically that no individual shall circumvent a technological device aimed at controlling access effectively to works covered under the title’s protection (Wolf, 2003).

The circumvention prohibition bill became effective in 2000, and has drawn immense controversies with regard to whether it is in conflict with the first amendment of the constitution. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DCMA Digital Millennium Copyright Act is the U. S. copyright law which seeks to implement two WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) treaties of the 1996 Geneva conference. The Act criminalizes the dissemination and production of devices, services or technology, which intend to circumvent measures popularly referred to as DRM or Digital Rights Management.

DCMA also criminalizes actions of access control circumventing, regardless of the presence or absence of real infringement of copyrighted pieces of work (Wolf, 2003). DCMA additionally intensifies copyright infringement penalties on the internet. It was passed by the U. S. Senate in a unanimous vote in 1998 and signed the same year into law by Bill Clinton, the then president of the United States. Title 17 of the U. S. code was amended by DCMA to extend the copyright reach, whilst restricting liability of online service providers for their users’ copyright infringement.

Originally the bill was supported by entertainment and software industries, but opposed by librarians, academics and scientists. DCMA’s general highlights include the criminalization of acts circumventing anti-piracy devices embedded in most commercial software. The manufacture, distribution or sale of devices that crack the codes used in illegal copying of software is outlawed. The bill does allow code-cracking, though, to carry out encryption research, product interoperability assessing and testing the security systems of a computer.

Depending on the circumstances, educational institutions, non-profit libraries and archives are exempted from the provisions of anti-circumvention. Webcasters are required by the bill to pay licensing fees when recording companies. Service providers are also expected to get rid of material from the websites of users that appears to comprise copyright infringement. The bill seeks to maintain an appropriate equilibrium between copyright owners’ rights and the necessities of the users.

It has been discovered that DCMA itself under the First Amendment is protected expression. According to Wolf (2003), Congress is explicitly prohibited by the First Amendment of the Constitution from formulating any legislation that will abridge an individual’s right to free speech. Numerous varied rationales support the freedom of expression constituted in the first amendment. It can be argued that no DCMA part perhaps has been more controversial or dominated headlines than the prohibitions of circumvention.

Section 1201 of the Act prohibits circumvention of copyrighted content and the technological protection measures built therein. It can alternatively be stated that if the owner of a copyright sets a technological lock on his work, regardless of its strength or weakness, he renders it illegal to utilize a cyber hacksaw in opening that lock to access the content material. Freedom of speech does not qualify any specific product to encompass a bad thing.

If the user desires some content available only in MS Windows, and improvises something or device that renders it available using Linux, then it cannot be termed bad or a crime. The guidance of DCMA is that things are prohibited where they are designed or produced primarily to circumvent, or marketed for the same. Of course this results in to the question of interest, whether circumvention could be developed as a minor element to some device whose primary purpose is something different, for instance mixing margaritas.

Courts have found out that at whatever rate Mod Chips, Real Media VCRs, DVD cracker programs and third-party toner cartridges are in violation of this provision (Wolf, 2003). DCMA establishes criminal penalties for the circumvention of a copyright protected system. The Act also prohibits manufacture, distribution, sale or import of services or devices utilized for circumvention. Circumvention for encryption research and security testing is exempted from the statute.

However there is delicate balance present between copyright protections and the first amendment’s freedoms of expression, both striving for common objectives. It depends on the level of scrutiny given by the courts that render a specific code under the analysis based on First Amendment. The determination of the level of scrutiny is done by classifying the code as either expressive conduct or pure speech. The First Amendment issue is thus examined in the context of big motion film organizations’ struggle against programmers who have hacked into the DVDs digital protections.