Every three years, we have a particular chance to change the law. Part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal for anyone to break digital locks placed on copyrighted material—even if their eventual use of the material is perfectly legal.
But the law has a built-in mechanism that can help lower these barriers. The Library of Congress (with the help of the Copyright Office) is required, every three years, to create exemptions to this law for people who are prevented by it from making legal uses of copyrighted works.
That time has come again. Until February 6, the Copyright Office will be accepting an initial round of comments from the public on several proposed exemptions. After that, those objecting to exemptions will have a chance to reply by March 27, and then supporters of the exemptions will have a final reply round due on May 1.
Here’s three of those requests for you to comment on:
Ripping Your Own DVDs
We’re asking for the right for consumers to rip their own DVDs in order to watch them on tablets, phones, and other computing devices that lack optical drives. Just as I can take my music from a CD and put it on any number of my own devices, I should be able to do the same thing with the movies I have on my DVDs. But because DVDs have access protections on them (a sort of software lock called CSS), it’s illegal for me to move my own movies onto my MacBook Air (which lacks an optical disc drive). If you think this is ridiculous, you’re welcome to tell the Copyright Office just that. Among other things, the Copyright Office is asking:
- What problems you face by not being able to rip movies from DVDs and transfer
- Whether you’ll be able to use DVDs with newer devices, or if DVD drives are becoming obsolete
- Why you can’t just do something else, like use an external drive, screen-cap the entire DVD with a camera, or re-buy the DVD (or get a subscription to an online service instead).
These aren’t the only questions they’re asking (they also want legal justifications for why DVD ripping isn’t copyright infringement), and your comments aren’t limited to answering just the questions they ask. But it’s helpful if they can get a handle on the scope and scale of the problems caused and how real people use their media.
You can tell the Copyright Office what you think about DVD ripping here.
Unlocking Your 3D Printers
3D printers are in the midst of creating a maker revolution. But some of the companies making 3D printers seem to be hell-bent on repeating the mistakes of the 2D printing world. In particular, some manufacturers are introducing printers that will only take their own cartridges of printer material. We think that you should be able to use whatever material you want in your 3D printer without running afoul of copyright law, so we’re asking the Copyright Office to make sure the DMCA won’t get makers in trouble. They want to hear from you on:
- What 3D printers have restrictions on the type of inputs they receive, and how those controls can be circumvented;
- Whether you can’t get around this by just using a different kind of 3D printer.
You don’t, of course, have to limit your comments to just those questions, or accept the premise that the existence of other printers means it’s OK for it to make printer inputs for any printer illegal.
You can tell the Copyright Office what you think of unlocking 3D printers here.
Accessing Data From Your Medical Devices
People who have implantable cardiac defibrillators, insulin pumps, or other digital medical devices are often restricted by the devices in how they can access and use the information that they collect from their bodies. That information can be incredibly useful—even life-saving—if patients can get it in time and in a format suited to their lives. But questions remain as to whether or not accessing the devices to get that information could be prevented by the DMCA.
If you have, or work with, these devices, or simply wish to support patients’ rights to access the data being recorded about their bodies, you can send your comments to the Copyright Office here.
Other Exemption Categories
These aren’t the only requests for exemptions from the DMCA—people have been asking for the right to remix videos for educational, creative, and journalistic purposes; people have been asking for the right to tinker with, fix, and improve their own vehicles; people have been asking for the right—again—to unlock and otherwise free their cellphones, tablets, and other devices. You can comment on any and all of these proceedings, either directly with the Copyright Office, or through other calls to action, like the Right to Repair site here.
Image credit: Flickr user Yuri Yu. Samoilov