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Copyright for Teaching and Instruction

About DMCA

Digital Millennium Copyright Act

This page will assist with questions regarding the following:

  • For face-to-face instruction; For online learning (posts on Canvas or online courses): using videos, computer programs, or other digital, copyrighted materials.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA, 17 USC § 1201) was added to the U.S. copyright law in 1998 to address the copyright protections for works in online settings, and also works that are digital or distributed online.  Its purpose is to help copyright holders protect their digital content, while also specifying some allowances for bypassing technologies put in place to protect online or digital copyrighted works.

DMCA includes language that prohibits unauthorized workarounds or tampering with technologies that control access to a copyrighted work (such as bypassing password protections to read or see a work) and also prohibits distributing technologies that do this and override technologies that prevent copying.  DMCA then prevents the intentional changing or removing copyright management information of a work such as its author, copyright holder, or other identifiers. This law also also releases internet or online service providers for copyright infringement liability if certain factors are met, and addresses copyright infringement in online settings and penalties for such offenses (U.S. Copyright Office, 2020).

DMCA in Educational Settings.  DMCA is frequently applied to copying and then showing video or other online content for teaching and learning purposes in nonprofit educational institutions. It also can be used for research or development purposes.  Although its language is complex and with many conditions, 17 USC § 1201(d) through (j) lists permanent exemptions to the prohibitions against circumvention such as such as encryption research, reverse engineering, protection of personally identifying information, and protection of minors from online materials.  

DMCA Temporary Exemptions.  DMCA allows temporary exemptions or allowances through rulemaking which are considered every 3 years.  To determine if your proposed use may qualify for an exemption, see the section, "DMCA Rulemaking (Exceptions)."


Any educator or researcher who wishes to use DMCA to support their teaching or scholarly/ creative activities should consider the following:

  • Carefully review the law and balance it with the details of the work they wish to use.
  • Consider if the circumvision measures they follow are within the law (Crews, 2020). 
  • See if other copyright exceptions may apply, such as fair use.

Disclaimer: The FAU Libraries and its faculty, staff, and administration are not attorneys and cannot interpret the law.  This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not substitute for advice from legal counsel.

Sources:  Crews, K. (2020).  Copyright law for educators and librarians: Creative strategies and practical solutions.  American Library Association.   

U.S. Copyright Office (2020).  Copyright law of the United States:  Chapter 12, Copyright Protection and Management Systems.  17 USC § 1201.


DMCA in Plain Language and For Teaching

DMCA Rulemaking (Exceptions) 

Various exemptions (both permanent and temporary) exist in the DMCA and are created every 3 years by the Librarian of Congress, U.S. Copyright Office, and National Telecommunications and Information Agency.  See the following documents for current and past exceptions that are in place for DMCA; these may assist in identifying accepted educational or creative uses of digital objects.



Copyright Alliance (2018). Copybites: Understanding the DMCA, an overview. [YouTube video].

US Copyright Office (2018).  Section 1201: A legal overview  [YouTube Video].

Last updated on Jan 29, 2024 2:13 PM