DMCA Exemptions Announced; Nothing Much For Consumers
from the keep-on-trying dept
Every few years, the Copyright Office/Library of Congress is supposed to look at requested “exemptions” from the DMCA anti-circumvention rule, where people have presented evidence saying that the law is too onerous under certain circumstances. Just the fact that they admit that the law is often so onerous that it needs regular review for exemptions should point out how problematic the law is — but that’s a debate for another time. The exemptions process itself is filled with problems, and people were pretty upset last time around by the very limited number of exemptions offered. Last year, the EFF even announced that the process was so broken that it served no purpose to file for exemptions that protect consumers.
Today the Copyright Office came out with the list of exemptions. There are six exemptions, which is the largest number so far (though, we’re talking a pretty small sample size), though some of them basically appear to be extensions of what was approved last time (such as cracking copy protection on obsolete formats and to allow e-books to be read aloud). They also allow circumvention for mobile phone firmware if it’s needed to legally connect to a wireless network, and finally, they dealt with the Sony rootkit issue. Back when the Sony rootkit was big news, some people pointed out that removing it, technically violated the anti-circumvention rule of the DMCA — but the Copyright Office, in their infinite wisdom, has now said that (thank goodness), you’re allowed to circumvent copyright protection if it’s on a CD and if it’s for audio works and if that copy protection introduces security vulnerabilities, but only to test, investigate or correct the security flaw.
As the EFF notes, all of the proposed exemptions that would protect consumers directly (such as for things like space-shifting, region coding and backing up DVDs) were rejected. So, you may run afoul of the law if you do any of those things to copy protected media. Even though the actions themselves are perfectly legal, getting around copy protection to do them is a violation of the law. Last time these exemptions came out, we hoped that the DMCA would be amended before the next set of exemptions were necessary — so lets hope that Rick Boucher can finally push through the changes he’s been proposing before another three years go by.