Provisions of the DMCA
- No circumventing
digital protections: A ban on circumventing a technological measure
or access control technology.
- No distribution
of devices designed to circumvent digital protections: A ban on trafficking
in technology that circumvents access-control measures.
- 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
- No removing
copyright information: A ban on the alteration of copyright management
- Safe harbor
for Internet service providers: A system for which Internet Service
Providers (ISPs) can escape liability for vicarious or contributory copyright
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
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.