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Paul Merrell

Victory for Users: Librarian of Congress Renews and Expands Protections for Fair Uses |... - 0 views

  • The new rules for exemptions to copyright's DRM-circumvention laws were issued today, and the Librarian of Congress has granted much of what EFF asked for over the course of months of extensive briefs and hearings. The exemptions we requested—ripping DVDs and Blurays for making fair use remixes and analysis; preserving video games and running multiplayer servers after publishers have abandoned them; jailbreaking cell phones, tablets, and other portable computing devices to run third party software; and security research and modification and repairs on cars—have each been accepted, subject to some important caveats.
  • The exemptions are needed thanks to a fundamentally flawed law that forbids users from breaking DRM, even if the purpose is a clearly lawful fair use. As software has become ubiquitous, so has DRM.  Users often have to circumvent that DRM to make full use of their devices, from DVDs to games to smartphones and cars. The law allows users to request exemptions for such lawful uses—but it doesn’t make it easy. Exemptions are granted through an elaborate rulemaking process that takes place every three years and places a heavy burden on EFF and the many other requesters who take part. Every exemption must be argued anew, even if it was previously granted, and even if there is no opposition. The exemptions that emerge are limited in scope. What is worse, they only apply to end users—the people who are actually doing the ripping, tinkering, jailbreaking, or research—and not to the people who make the tools that facilitate those lawful activities. The section of the law that creates these restrictions—the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's Section 1201—is fundamentally flawed, has resulted in myriad unintended consequences, and is long past due for reform or removal altogether from the statute books. Still, as long as its rulemaking process exists, we're pleased to have secured the following exemptions.
  • The new rules are long and complicated, and we'll be posting more details about each as we get a chance to analyze them. In the meantime, we hope each of these exemptions enable more exciting fair uses that educate, entertain, improve the underlying technology, and keep us safer. A better long-terms solution, though, is to eliminate the need for this onerous rulemaking process. We encourage lawmakers to support efforts like the Unlocking Technology Act, which would limit the scope of Section 1201 to copyright infringements—not fair uses. And as the White House looks for the next Librarian of Congress, who is ultimately responsible for issuing the exemptions, we hope to get a candidate who acts—as a librarian should—in the interest of the public's access to information.
Paul Merrell

Free At Last: New DMCA Rules Might Make the Web a Better Place | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • David Mao, the Librarian of Congress, has issued new rules pertaining to exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) after a 3 year battle that was expedited in the wake of the Volkswagen scandal.
  • Opposition to this new decision is coming from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the auto industry because the DMCA prohibits “circumventing encryption or access controls to copy or modify copyrighted works.” For example, GM “claimed the exemption ‘could introduce safety and security issues as well as facilitate violation of various laws designed specifically to regulate the modern car, including emissions, fuel economy, and vehicle safety regulations’.” The exemption in question is in Section 1201 which forbids the unlocking of software access controls which has given the auto industry the unique ability to “threaten legal action against anyone who needs to get around those restrictions, no matter how legitimate the reason.” Journalist Nick Statt points out that this provision “made it illegal in the past to unlock your smartphone from its carrier or even to share your HBO Go password with a friend. It’s designed to let corporations protect copyrighted material, but it allows them to crackdown on circumventions even when they’re not infringing on those copyrights or trying to access or steal proprietary information.”
  • Kit Walsh, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), explained that the “‘access control’ rule is supposed to protect against unlawful copying. But as we’ve seen in the recent Volkswagen scandal—where VW was caught manipulating smog tests—it can be used instead to hide wrongdoing hidden in computer code.” Walsh continued: “We are pleased that analysts will now be able to examine the software in the cars we drive without facing legal threats from car manufacturers, and that the Librarian has acted to promote competition in the vehicle aftermarket and protect the long tradition of vehicle owners tinkering with their cars and tractors. The year-long delay in implementing the exemptions, though, is disappointing and unjustified. The VW smog tests and a long run of security vulnerabilities have shown researchers and drivers need the exemptions now.” As part of the new changes, gamers can “modify an old video game so it doesn’t perform a check with an authentication server that has since been shut down” and after the publisher cuts of support for the video game.
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  • Another positive from the change is that smartphone users will be able to jailbreak their phone and finally enjoy running operating systems and applications from any source, not just those approved by the manufacturer. And finally, those who remix excerpts from DVDs, Blu – Ray discs or downloading services will be allowed to mix the material into theirs without violating the DMCA.
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