Digital Millennium Copyright Act

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Synonyms: DMCA
See also: Legal Analysis, Copyright, Fair Use, Intellectual Property, Cease & Desist, Creative Commons
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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act or more commonly, DMCA is a United States copyright law. It implements two treaties of the The World Intellectual Property Organization.[1]

The law concerns Digital Rights Management (DRM), a set of measures used to restrict access to copyrighted material. The law criminalizes circumventing DRM as well as producing or supplying the means to do so.

Under DMCA, the penalties for copyright infringement online were increased.

There are concerns that DMCA has not kept up with the evolving digital ecosystem and can be abused:

[...]Like Cockygate, the Omegaverse case reveals how easily intellectual property law can be weaponized by authors seeking to take down their rivals. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, individuals or companies can send takedown notices to retailers as long as they have a good faith belief that their work has been infringed. Retailers are protected from being named in related litigation if they remove the material, and many websites comply with D.M.C.A. notices without even investigating the claims. Legal experts say the system is easily abused.

“We’ve seen lots of examples of people sending D.M.C.A. notices when it’s pretty obvious that they didn’t think there was copyright infringement,” said Mitch Stoltz, a senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group. “There’s not much accountability.”

On May 21, the U.S. Copyright Office released a report detailing how the 22-year-old D.M.C.A. has failed to keep pace with the anarchic digital ecosystem, as online platforms have been overwhelmed by a crushing volume of takedown notices. Between 1998 and 2010, Google received fewer than three million such notices; in 2017, the company got more than 880 million — an increase of more than 29,000 percent, according to the report. Many requests are legitimate, but the report notes that other motives include “anti-competitive purposes, to harass a platform or consumer, or to try and chill speech that the rightsholder does not like.”[2]

The DMCA and Fandom

Fandom mainly encounters DMCA in the form of take down notices for vids and AMVs that use audio or video tracks that are subject to copyright. (See YouTube for information on how YouTube implements DMCA.) Fans who use Mediafire and other cyberlockers to host their podfics, especially if the files include music clips, have noticed an uptick in takedown notices starting in 2012.[citation needed][3]

Fans who gain or provide access to canon via file sharing are also affected.

On 26 July 2010, the Organization for Transformative Works announced that the U.S. Library of Congress had granted an exemption from DMCA restrictions for ripping DVDs to make fanvids.[4] The current exemption applies solely to video (not audio) source. The OTW was able to have the exemption renewed in 2012, but under current law these exemptions must be petitioned for every two years, which puts the burden on users and organizations that represent them to constantly maintain their rights [5] As of 2015, the OTW was engaged in a third renewal effort and is requesting expansion of the exemption to include Blu-Ray discs. [6]

Needs Updating: This page is out of date. Editors are encouraged to add more recent information.

Safe harbor

The DMCA includes "safe harbor" provision for hosts that don't edit content - so long as hosts take down infringing content when reported, they are not responsible for content that their users upload.


  1. ^ Wikipedia:Digital Millennium Copyright Act
  2. ^ A Feud in Wolf-Kink Erotica Raises a Deep Legal Question by Alexandra Alter in The New York Times]] (May 23, 2020}
  3. ^ See 14 October 2012 tweet, October 2012 AO3 post.
  4. ^ US Library of Congress Grants DMCA Exemption for Vidders!!, dated July 26, 2010. Accessed August 25, 2010.
  5. ^ OTW Secures DMCA Exemption from U.S. Copyright Office, dated October 27, 2012. Accessed January 29, 2015.
  6. ^ OTW Files Petitions on Behalf of Fan Video Makers, dated November 3, 2014. Accessed January 29, 2015.