This is weird. I was searching on Google for used textbooks and was quite surprised to see the following at the end of the Google page: “In response to a complaint we received under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint for these removed results.”
What does it mean? What is the DMCA anyway?
That’s very interesting indeed. In all the times I’ve searched Google, I’ve never bumped into the footnote you are highlighting. As you find out when you click on the “DMCA” link itself:
“It is our policy to respond to notices of alleged infringement that comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the text of which can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office Web Site) and other applicable intellectual property laws, which may include removing or disabling access to material claimed to be the subject of infringing activity. If we remove or disable access to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we will make a good-faith attempt to contact the owner or administrator of each affected site so that they may make a counter notification pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and (3) of that Act. It is our policy to document all notices of alleged infringement on which we act. A copy of the notice will be sent to a third party who will make it available to the public.”
That’s fair. In fact, Google also links to the specific DMCA complaint, as hosted by a third party. Clicking on that second link reveals that the complaint was from shareup.net against servletsource.com and www.worldlib.org. Obviously the complaint was upheld and now Google is screening results from either of those other sites.
It’s an interesting and typically smart response to the challenges of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
And so, what about the DMCA?
According to Marybeth Peters, the Register of Copyrights, “The DMCA was the foundation of an effort by Congress to implement United States treaty obligations and to move the nation’s copyright law into the digital age.”
Remember, copyright law is specifically designed to protect the rights of the author in their original works, and copyright exists from the moment of ‘fixation’ in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright “includes the right of the author to control the reproduction, display, performance, and other uses of a work.” [ref]
If you’re so inclined, you can read The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of Oct 20, 1998 but beware, it’s a very long legal document.
Specific points addressed by the DMCA include:
- Limitations of certain liabilities of online service providers
- Exemption from copyright infringement for making a copy of a computer program if the copy is made for the purpose of maintenance or repair, and miscellaneous provisions regarding distance education
- Exceptions in the Copyright Act for nonprofit libraries and archives to make preservation copies of certain materials in digital form
- “Webcasting” of sound recordings on the Internet.
There’s a lot of criticism of the DMCA in the digital community however, and it’s surprisingly easy to find pointed criticism of this legislation online. For example, blogcritics.org, OpenLaw (they say “The DMCA goes FAR beyond the requirements of the WIPO treaties. The DMCA was primarily written by intellectual property companies – the MPAA, RIAA, and other media lobbyists.”), The Electronic Frontier Foundation and The Anti-DMCA Website are just a few examples.
This is a difficult and complex subject, but as someone who produces lots of copyrighted work and is very concerned with protecting my rights, I also believe that it’s a very important topic.