The US Copyright Office has delayed its ruling in the triennial rulemaking to determine exemptions to the DMCA’s ban on circumventing technological protection measures, instead extending the current set of exemptions for the near future.
The Copyright Office website provides no reason for the delay. All we know now is that the Register of Copyrights has not produced a set of recommended exemptions and that the delay is expected to last “no more than a few weeks” (pdf).
17 USC 1201(a)(1) prohibits the circumvention of a “technological measure that effectively controls access to a [copyrighted] work.” Except for a list of narrow exemptions, it is illegal to hack through such copyright-protecting technologies, popularly referred to as “digital rights management” or “DRM.”
Some of the exemptions are permantly encoded elsewhere in section 1201. The Copyright Office determines another set of temporary exemptions that last for three years. For more on this process, follow the first link or read this paper.
In hearings this spring, two highly contested proposals for exemptions were the proposal to permit hacking through technologies that compromise the security of one’s computer (transcript; pdf) and another to permit the hacking of DVDs for educational purposes (transcript; pdf). I testified at the second, but if we win an exemption, Penn professor Peter Decherney gets the lion’s share of the credit, with assists going to Jonathan Band, Peter Jaszi, and Katherine Sender.
The exemptions from the 2003 rulemaking were due to expire on Friday, October 27 and be replaced by a new set expiring in 2009. There has been no explanation of whether the new set will stand for a full three years.
I will provide more on this developing story as it unfurls.