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

Copyright for Online or Virtual Classroom


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


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.