Some copyright sanity

/ 26 July 2010

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires that the Librarian of Congress check in every three years with a determination of the kinds of works that should be exempt from DMCA enforcement. Today James Billington made the fourth determination of this sort, and one that has me very excited. After a rulemaking proceeding conducted by the Register of Copyright, he has designated six classes of non-infringing use of DRM (digital restrictions managment) circumvention.

By far the biggest news is that “university professors” and “college and university film and media studies students” may rip DVDs for “educational uses”. This has a direct impact on my household, where we have found we had to do this to support media work by my partner, a college professor. Even better, this kind of use is also allowed for “documentary filmmaking” and “noncommercial videos”! There are limits, but they seem reasonable. Mainly this circumvention of DRM is only allowed “solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment”.

Other interesting classes of circumvention allowed by this rulling…

  • You may circumvent ebook protections in order to enable software or screen readers to read the ebook aloud.
  • You may jailbreak and/or unlock your own cell phone.
  • You may bypass an obsolete dongle that prevents the use of software you still need.
  • You may test, investigate, and correct security flaws and vulnerabilities in computer games you own.

Thank you, Librarian of Congress!

James H Billington

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