On October 22, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked the Register of Copyrights to draft a report on the role of copyrighted software embedded in everyday products. The report, due December 15, 2016, is to discuss how the ubiquitous presence of copyrighted software in the current environment can affect consumers and existing business models, and how changes to the law might help or hurt users and copyright owners.
The following can be attributed to Sherwin Siy, Vice President of Legal Affairs at Public Knowledge:
“We're glad that the Judiciary Committee is asking the Copyright Office to look into this vital question. Our copyright laws give tremendous power over how copyrighted works are used. Now that copyrighted software is in so many things, we're seeing more and more that those powers are being abused to restrict consumers when they use products that don't have anything to do with creative media — like cars, home appliances, or even blood glucose monitors.
“There's a wide range of issues that the law is only beginning to grapple with in this space — how manufacturers can prevent the sale of used goods with software restrictions, or use software to keep people from going to independent repair shops or buying generic products.
“Some of these issues will affect users far into the future, but some, like the chilling effects on research and consumer uses caused by the DMCA, are harming consumers right now. That's why we're glad to see that this inquiry will proceed in parallel with, and not as a substitute for, other efforts to bring the law in line with the modern era.”
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