In 1998, in a effort to address some of the issues that had changed with the advent of the digital age, Congress passed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). "The key statutory elements of the DMCA are rules: (1) to prohibit circumvention of technological measures designed to control access to digital copyrighted works; (2) to publish and protect copyright management information; and (3) to limit the liability of online service providers." 1
Suffice it to say, the law is extremely complicated. Although Congress has made amendments to it to try and clarify it, it remains difficult to get a handle on. Essentially, it may provide some protection for universities because, in reading the law, they can be interpreted as being an "online service provider" and therefore, would qualify for copyright protections. A copy of the DMCA is included below.
1. Lutzker, Arnold P. "The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the University Campus: A Safe Harbor?" in The Center for Intellectual Property Handbook. Ed., Kimberly M. Bonner. (New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2006), p. 88.