Copyright Office grants 6 exemptions for circumventing DRM
Copyright Office grants 6 exemptions for circumventing DRM
Copyright Office grants 6 exemptions for circumventing DRM

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    The Copyright Office today granted 6 exemptions to 17 USC § 1201(a)(1), effective for the next three years, that allow end-users to circumvent technological protection measures in order to make noninfringing uses of certain works.

    Two of the exemptions are particularly noteworthy. They are:

    1. Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors.

    6. Sound recordings, and audiovisual works associated with those sound recordings, distributed in compact disc format and protected by technological protection measures that control access to lawfully purchased works and create or exploit security flaws or vulnerabilities that compromise the security of personal computers, when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing, investigating, or correcting such security flaws or vulnerabilities.

    This represents a substantial shift in the Copyright Office’s interpretation of Section 1201. (More after the break.) In 2000 and 2003, they vocally rejected any and all classes of works that were defined, even in part, by reference to specific users or intended uses. Classes of works had to be defined strictly in terms of the qualities of the works themselves.

    In 2006, however, the intended use and/or user are part of 4 of the 6 granted exemptions. Of particular note, read pp. 12-24 of the Register’s recommendations (pdf) detailing the reasoning behind the film & media studies professors’ exemption. As noted elsewhere, this proposal and the rootkit-inspired proposal may have been responsible for the Copyright Office’s delay in issuing their recommendations.

    Much credit goes to Peter Decherney, the Penn Cinema Studies prof who testified on April 3 (pdf). Watching him a) sell the need for digital-to-digital reproduction, and b) respond to the movie studios was a thing of beauty.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication at Penn, where Decherney’s two co-authors (Michael X. Delli Carpini and Katherine Sender) of the proposed exemption are professors. I also testified, much less persuasively, alongside Decherney.