DMCA exemptions issued

The Library of Congress / Copyright Office issued its third set of DMCA rulemaking exemptions, just before taking off for the holidays. I was eagerly anticipating the rulemaking (even more eagerly than usual) after David Carson, General Counsel at the Copyright Office, kept dropping hints about the what we could all look forward to at a panel at Fordham last Friday. (The ever witty Hugh Hansen said it was the closest he’s seen to a legal strip tease.)

The rulemaking is more generous than it has been in past years (though still not as generous as I would be).

To sum up & paraphrase:

“Persons making noninfringing uses of the following six classes of works will not be subject to the prohibition against circumventing access controls (17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)) during the next three years.” (The exemptions go into effect starting Monday 11/27 & expiring Oct. 27, 2009.)

  1. Film professors. (new) Film professors etc. can circumvent CSS on DVDs for teaching. (Limited to works in the school collection.) (New exemption)
  2. Preserving old video games. Libraries & archives can preserve computer programs & video games for obsolete platforms & medias. (This kind of exemption shows the weirdness of the 3-year expiration for each of these rulemakings. Libraries & archives had better do a lot of preservation in the next 3 years because who knows if we’ll get it again in 2009! This is a carry-over exemption, but every 3 years librarians have to make the case again.)
  3. Malfunctioning dongles. You, me, and anyone else can disable malfunctioning access dongles on computer programs if the dongles are obsolete. (Another carry-over.)
  4. EBook blind readers. Blind ebook read-aloud exemption continues from past exemptions.
  5. Cell phone switching. (new) If you switch cell phone companies you can disable proprietary technologies to keep your cell phone. (This is a new exemption.)
  6. Sony rootkits. (new) Sony rootkits and other CD copy protections can be disabled to test, investigate, or correct security flaws or vulnerabilities. (This is a new exemption, and I’m glad it’s here, but, honestly, we got more bang for the buck out of the furious glare of news media & public outrage & a little state’s attorney general scrutiny.)

The Librarian of Congress carefully reminded us that “[t]his is not a broad evaluation of the successes or failures of the DMCA.” Also, that the rulemaking is just for access-control exemptions, not copy-control exemptions, nor does the rulemaking craft exemptions for the prohibitions on making / distributing circumvention tools.

There’s a lot more detail in the 88 page “Recommendation of the Register of Copyrights”, which is where the juicy comments on everybody else’s proposed recommendations will be. What a fun txgiving read! O thank you Copyright Office — this is much better than a football game. (I’m not being sarcastic.)