Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) is the law that supplements the US copyright law with directives taking into account the modern technological achievements in copying and distributing information. It was developed to implement the WIPO Copyright Act and the Performances and Phonograms Act; it passed unanimously in the US Senate on May 14, 1998. President Clinton signed it on October 28 of the same year (Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 1998). It brings out of the legal area not only direct copyright infringement by copying but also production and distribution of technologies allowing to circumvent technical means of copyright protection (up to the impossibility of fair use). The Act toughens liability for copyright infringement through the Internet while at the same time protecting providers from liability for the actions of users.
The Copyright Act governs the ownership of specific virtual/digital property: music, videos, podcasts, and more. The law aims to develop an understanding among users that some object put in the public domain is not equal to their distribution and use for one’s purposes. If something is free, it doesn’t mean it was obtained legally or can be used without notifying the author of the content (DCMA, 1998). In video protection, this issue is very relevant: screen recordings of new films, using other people’s videos in one’s work without notification/quoting. The DCMA helps a lot in the fight against piracy and speculation on other people’s property because it sets a framework for the legal use of content and gives authors more rights.
Lenz vs. Universal Music Corp. – is a case that arose because the DCMA did not fully consider the procedure for removing content because it did not consider the nature of its use. Stephanie Lenz posted a video that UCM’s YouTube monitoring service believes focuses on the song Let’s Go Crazy, which belongs to Prince. An employee of the company considered the song playing in the background to be an infringement of copyrighted content. For this, Lenz sued UCM, pointing out that the company and YouTube chose to focus on removing content rather than analyzing what rights it was used. Her lawsuit was that her use of the song in the background in her videos did not violate copyright law because the music was already protected by it. The use of the content was done without the purpose of profiting from it or claiming rights to the song. Lenz’s lawsuit claimed that fair use of copyrighted material was not subject to DCMA law.
The court ruled that the copyright holder must consider fair use of protected content. It is because this type of consumption/use does not imply a violation of the author’s rights. The court also noted that the monitoring services must analyze how the material is used before removing material with protected content. Only in case of violation of fair use should the issue of removal of content be raised. The judge used the language about affirmative defense and mentioned that it is also responsible for improper use of his authority as an author. Authors should be aware that their rights to the material do not equal their right to regulate the law as they see fit. The main point of this claim is that authors must also provide evidence because without it, the case would be considered fabricated.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pub. L. 105-304. 112 Stat. 2860. (1998).