DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It is a U.S. copyright law adopted in 1998 that protects copyrighted work on the Internet from illegal use or dissemination, while also providing for the designations of digital locks (“technological protection measures”) and criminal actions against certain persons who are found to circumvent or breach such protections, including fines and imprisonment. The law has been implemented in various ways around the world: in Austria it took effect on 1 January 2000, in Australia on 19 August 2000, and in Canada on 24 November 2001.

The rules are designed to enforce the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, specifically the sections on technological measures including digital rights management. The rules were first established by rulemaking in a proceeding before the U.S. Copyright Office in October 2000, and then finalized in March 2002 and subsequently updated to reflect subsequent changes by rule making in 2007.

The 1998 Act provides for civil remedies and criminal penalties against persons found to be circumventing TPMs. The Act also permits the U.S. Customs Service to seize infringing products at U.S. borders, and authorizes lawsuits against those who fail to comply with the DMCA’s provisions.

DMCA rules can be used by copyright holders to request from ISPs information about subscribers suspected of illegally copying copyrighted material using their Internet account, based on a form officially called “Pre-Signed Letter of Findings” (PSLF). This request is a DMCA subpoena, which may be issued by any party who claims that their copyrighted work has been infringed and any ISP providing service to the party accused of infringement. The ISPs must then forward the information to an IP address-level “Notice and Take Down” system operated by the U.S. Copyright Office, which can then be used by the copyright holder to request that a URL linking to unauthorized copies of copyrighted material, or other copyright-infringing material, be removed from search engines and other Internet resources.

The DMCA requires universities to implement a notice-and-takedown procedure for any material that they believe is infringing the copyright of another person or company, and such procedures must conform with requirements determined by the Office of Copyright Management (OCM) in consultation with experts in copyright law.

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