The 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.
Appalachian State University has developed a three strike policy with DMCA takedown notices for our end users.
- A first offense is handled through a warning and response system where the student is notified and asked to remove all copyrighted material from their computer.
- A second offense is handled through a warning and mandatory workshop to educate on the risks of copyright infringement. Internet is cut off from the student's computer for ten academic days.
- A third offense is handled by cutting off the student's computer Internet access for 75 academic days, and placing the student on academic probation.
The 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:
- Educate students on copyright and DMCA issues,
- Prevent inappropriate use of peer-to-peer (P2P) programs and software through utilization of a variety of technologies to deter the behavior, and
- Suggest alternatives for downloading programs (Pandora, Itunes, etc.).
Appalachian State University is addressing this act in all three venues.
For education, we are creating a variety of publications (brochures, newsletters, websites, and email) regarding peer-to-peer, DMCA, and copyright infringements. We discuss DMCA in orientation sessions, and also do presentations for student groups and residence halls.
For preventing inappropriate use of P2P and copyright infringement, we utilize tools like Packet Shaper and a software program called Integrity by Red Lambda. The Integrity product detects use of P2P applications like Limewire and Bit Torrent and will send notices to users discussing the ramifications of P2P, copyright infringement, and DMCA. This software does NOT look at the contents of files. These notices are used as an educational opportunity first and foremost.
Appalachian State University DMCA Officer information:
224 Joyce Lawrence Lane
1022 Anne Belk Hall
Boone, NC 28608