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Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998

In 1998, Bill Clinton signed into law the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 that has since changed the way the digital world works.  Anyone who creates content that is either available in digital form or can be transformed into a digital work is affected by the DMCA and is given even more creative control over the content. The DMCA also affects the end users such as you by restricting what you can and cannot do with digital content.

One of the big things that affect students on campus is the ability that the DMCA grants copyright holders to send out what are known as DMCA Takedown Notices. A student will typically get one of these when he or she commits an act of copyright infringement by either hosting a copyrighted file on a website or sharing that file on a peer to peer network such as LimeWire, BitTorrent, or Kazaa. This notice states that the copyright owner believes that you are hosting and allowing redistribution of their content without their expressed permission and is requesting that you take the content down from your website or from being shared. Even after removing the offending content, the recipient has the possibility of receiving a lawsuit as much as three years after receiving the notice.

The DMCA does, however, give institutions and businesses such as the university and internet service providers such as Charter, Time Warner, and Comcast, or even content hosting sites such as YouTube “safe harbor”. What this means is as long as they pass the takedown notice to the person, they cannot be sued by the copyright holder.  However if these groups wish to maintain their safe harbor, they have to take down the content or pass along the notice without caring about the content or discriminating.

Higher Education Opportunity Act

The Higher Education Opportunity Act requires academic institutions to increase the university's response to copyright infringements.  Universities must have a three pronged approach to address this act:

  1. Educate students on copyright and DMCA issues,
  2. Prevent inappropriate use of peer-to-peer (P2P) programs and software through utilizations   of a variety of technologies to deter the behavior, and
  3. Suggest alternatives for downloading programs (Pandora, Itunes, etc.).

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