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Provisions of the DMCA

  1. No circumventing digital protections: A ban on circumventing a technological measure or access control technology.
  2. No distribution of devices designed to circumvent digital protections: A ban on trafficking in technology that circumvents access-control measures.
  3. No selling of anti-security tools: A ban on trafficking in technology that circumvents technological protection measures that restrict the ability to copy a copyrighted work.
  4. No removing copyright information: A ban on the alteration of copyright management information.
  5. Safe harbor for Internet service providers: A system for which Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can escape liability for vicarious or contributory copyright infringement.

Provision 1: Circumventing digital protections
The first provision of the DMCA prohibits defeating the access control measure that protects or limits access to digital information. Defeating the access control measure, or “circumventing a technological measure,” means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure without the authority of the copyright owner. Access control measures are found in many digital items such as DVDs, video games, or computer games.  The exceptions discussed below are notable here, which allow the above circumventions in limited educational and library related circumstances, as well as sometimes allowing reverse engineering of certain devices.

Provision 2: Distribution of devices that circumvent digital protections
The second provision bans trafficking in devices that circumvent access controls. In order for an individual to defeat an access control measure he or she can create software that will allow unauthorized access to the copyrighted information. Use of the program violates Provision 1: Circumventing digital protections, and the sale or distribution of this computer program is unlawful as well. The most publicized example of a violation under this provision was the prosecution of the 15-year-old who created a software program that defeated the protection on DVDs and then posted the program on the Internet for download.

Provision 3: Selling anti-security tools
The third provision bans trafficking in technology that circumvents technological measures that limit the ability to reproduce a copyrighted work. An example of this kind of technological protection is an encoding technique that prevents a music CD from being played and therefore copied on a computer. Think of this as a second level of protection such as the indelible dye packs hidden in bundles of cash stolen from banks. This provision would prevent users from distributing the work-around for playing the CD in a computer. While the device can legally be played on a computer under the first sale doctrine, trafficking in a device that allows a user to play the CD on a computer is nonetheless illegal.

Provision 4: Removing copyright management information
The fourth provision bans the alteration of copyright management information or providing false copyright management information. Copyright management information is information conveyed in connection with a copyrighted work for the purposes of identifying its origin; such information could include the title, author, name of the copyright owner, terms and conditions for use of the work, and identifying numbers or symbols referring to the above information. This does not include information about the user of a work or a copy of the work. The copyright management information is like serial numbers on commercial products such as computers or cars. This provision prevents a user from altering this information prior to passing the copyrighted materials on to others.

Provision 5: Safe harbors from liability for Internet Service Providers
The fifth and last provision of the DMCA is designed to protect service providers, allowing ISPs or online service providers to escape liability for the actions of its users so long as they did not know or have reason to know that their users were violating a copyright holder’s rights.

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