Digital Millennium Copyright Act

United States copyright law is based in the U.S. Constitution, giving Congress the authority "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." (Article I, sec. 8) Those exclusive rights to one's own intellectual property include literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, works in any medium (printed, digital, other recording media) as well as software.

Copyrighted works include the following broad categories:

  1. Literary works
  2. Musical works, including accompanying words
  3. Dramatic works, including accompanying music
  4. Pantomimes and choreographic works
  5. Pictorial and graphical works
  6. Sculptural works
  7. Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  8. Sound recordings in all formats
  9. Architectural works
  10. Photographs
  11. Museum reproductions of paintings or other works of art
  12. Software

Copyright law has been modified from time to time to address issues related to new publishing and distribution technologies. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 deals with transmission and use of digital works.

The federal government requires colleges and universities to establish policies and plans to "combat unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials by users of the institution's network without unduly interfering with the educational and research use of the network."

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) recognizes that digital transmission of works adds complexity to copyright law. The DMCA provides non-profit educational institutions with some protections if individual members of the community violate the law. However, for the University of Richmond to maintain this protection we must immediately respond to complaints from copyright holders that someone using the University of Richmond network has infringed on their copyright by using material without permission.

Students should familiarize themselves with the sanctions for violations of the DMCA .

The DMCA prohibits downloading or distribution of copyrighted works without the owner's permission for use as required or recommended reading for any course taught at or in connection with the University of Richmond. The DMCA does not shield the University of Richmond from vicarious liability for this type of copyright infringement.

The DMCA will not shield the University from liability of infringing activities of a faculty member. Therefore, after a first complaint is received, the faculty member will be required to prove to the University's registered DMCA agent that they understand copyright law and will not violate the law in the future. A repeat offender may be placed on probationary status by the University.

It is the responsibility of all students, faculty, and staff at the University of Richmond to understand and comply with copyright law. Additional information on U.S. copyright law is found on the United States Copyright Office Web site.

The University of Richmond's registered Digital Millennium Copyright Act agent is Lucretia McCulley, Head of Scholarly Communications and Access Services, Boatwright Memorial Library.

Examples of Copyright Infringement Found in a University Setting:

  • A faculty member places a number of full-text articles on a class web page that is accessible to anyone who can access the Internet
  • Students download MP3 files of music and videos files and send them to friends without the copyright holder permission.
  • Students use BitTorrent or similar utilities to download copyrighted music without permission from the copyright holder.
  • Students use BitTorrent or similar utilities to make copyrighted works stored on their hard drive available to others to download
  • A student prepares a web page assignment for a course and uses corporate logos without permission.
  • Without the copyright holder's permission, a faculty member places an electronic copy of a standardized test on the department's web site.
  • A staff member enhances the departmental web site with music that is downloaded and artwork that is scanned from a book, all without attribution or permission.
  • A student scans a photograph that has been published and uses it without permission as the background of his/her web site.
  • A student develops an e-commerce site for a class and, without permission, scans in photographs of products that came from commercial Web sites.
  • A student selects a segment of a movie and places it on his Web site.

Legal Alternatives to Downloading

The University Libraries offer streaming audio and streaming video/film resources for UR Students faculty and staff.

Numerous legal alternatives are also listed at "Legal Sources of Online Content."

Revision History

Version Revised Date Author Comments
1.0 May 18, 2010 Jim Rettig Revision history added.
1.1 July 16, 2010 Jim Rettig Link to "Legal Alternatives to Downloading" added.


July 31, 2013 Melody Kimball

Updated the University's DMCA agent information.


Sept. 26, 2014 Melody Kimball

Updated the University's DMCA agent information.


Nov. 15, 2018 Julie Neville

Updates to "Legal Alternatives to Downloading"