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The Graduate Health & Life Sciences Research Library at Georgetown University Medical Center

Copyright Protection - Managing Creator Rights


What is the DMCA?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, enacted in 1998, is an amendment that attempts to update the Copyright Act so that it accounts for copyright in the digital age. The DMCA helps to protect the internet provider and hold the user liable for infringement when it occurs. As long as the internet provider follows the information below, it won't be liable for any infringement.

Some of the key elements of the DMCA:

  • Provides some protection to online service providers from liability for online infringement if conditions are met 
  • Makes circumvention of technology used to protected copyrighted materials a civil and criminal offense. 
  • Prohibits tampering with copyright management information

Requirements for Protection:

According to the Harvard DMCA Overview (2016), to fall within the protection of the DMCA, an internet service provider must:

  • Take certain steps when it receives notice that infringing material resides on its network
  • Adopt and implement a policy that provides for termination in appropriate circumstances of users who are repeat infringers
  • Accommodate standard technical measures that are used by copyright owners to identify and protect copyrighted works.

Online Service Provider Liability:

Libraries work within institutions, such as universities, that for the purposes of the DMCA are considered online service providers (OSPs).

Special Provisions for Educators:

According to Russell (88-89) Non-profit educational institutions that qualify as OSPs get additional protections. If a faculty member or student infringed, the OSP will not be held liable for that individual's actions if:

  • Infringing activity does not relate to instruction materials required for a course within the last three years 
  • Institution has not received more than two infringement notices against that person with in the prior three years
  • institution provides copyright information to its users

Notifications of Claimed Infringement

Information below directly from the the US Copyright Office's DMCA Designated Agent Directory:

Notifications of Claimed Infringement

When a copyright owner’s work is being infringed on or through a service provider’s service, the copyright owner may send a notification of claimed infringement (often referred to as a “takedown notice”) to the service provider’s designated agent. For takedown notices to be legally effective, they must be provided to a service provider’s designated agent in writing and include substantially the following:

  1. A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
  2. Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.
  3. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material.
  4. Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.
  5. A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
  6. A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3)(A). Upon receipt of a compliant takedown notice, a service provider must respond expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of the infringing activity. If a service provider fails to do so, it may lose its safe harbor protection and be subject to an infringement suit.


The purpose of this guide is to provide resources and information for resolving copyright questions. This research guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel.