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Unpublished Paper
The Evolution of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; Changing Interpretations of the DMCA and Future Implications for Copyright Holders
ExpressO (2014)
  • Hillary A Henderson, Texas State University
Copyright law rewards an artificial monopoly to individual authors for their creations. This reward is based on the belief that, by granting authors the exclusive right to reproduce their works, they receive an incentive and means to create, which in turn advances the welfare of the general public by “promoting the progress of science and useful arts.” Copyright protection subsists . . . in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device . . . . In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work. The Copyright Act of 1976 is the sole federal statute governing copyright law. It was intentionally written in a vague manner and meant to be open to evolving interpretation as technology transforms throughout history. An important (and the most recent) revision of the 1976 act was enacted in 1998, and is known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). Its purpose is to update copyright law for the digital age. The DMCA is the foundation of every United States federal law regarding digital rights. Intentional ambiguity enables this law to remain applicable to a variety of modern court cases. However, this same ambiguity also affords courts the freedom to issue widely varying opinions and judgments regarding rapidly advancing technology. To give the reader some perspective of this ambiguity, this article discusses recent judicial applications of the DMCA. Section II outlines the main pillars of the DMCA. Sections III and IV provide more detail about Title I of the DMCA, which deals with anti-circumvention implementation and evolution. Sections V and VI discuss Title II of the DMCA, which addresses safe-harbor protection from the law; this title of the DMCA currently is the most controversial. Section VII pinpoints difficulties that parties governed by the DMCA may face as technology continues to evolve, and section VIII offers alternative ideas that could help bypass some undesirable outcomes, namely greater constitutional scrutiny or simply giving the parties viable alternatives to the current process.
  • digital millennium copyright act,
  • digital,
  • copyright,
  • fair use,
  • safe harbor,
  • arts,
  • entertainment,
  • music,
  • millennium,
  • DMCA,
  • online copyright infringement liability limitations act,
  • Bill Clinton,
  • Sarah Palin,
  • John McCain,
  • YouTube
Publication Date
January 4, 2014
Citation Information
Hillary A Henderson. "The Evolution of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; Changing Interpretations of the DMCA and Future Implications for Copyright Holders" ExpressO (2014)
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