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New DMCA Exemptions 'Disappointing'
By Jon Newton, p2pnet.net
(more articles from this author)
2003-10-31
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The US Librarian of Congress yesterday issued its ruling on exemptions to the DMCA's general ban on circumvention of technological restrictions controlling copyrighted works.

But it leaves the vast majority of consumers unable to access their own property, such as skipping commercials on DVDs, playing CDs in their PCs, and reading eBooks on PDA's without violating the DMCA, says IP Justice executive director Robin Gross.

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The ruling, "just underscores the need for legislative reform of the DMCA to restore the balance in U.S. Copyright law," says EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) attorney Fred von Lohmann.

The exemptions, which apply for the next three years, are based on the recommendation of the US Copyright Office following its public study on "the adverse impact on the ability to make fair use and other lawful uses of digital media".

They are:

(1) Compilations consisting of lists of Internet locations blocked by commercially marketed filtering software applications that are intended to prevent access to domains, websites or portions of websites, but not including lists of Internet locations blocked by software applications that operate exclusively to protect against damage to a computer or computer network or lists of Internet locations blocked by software applications that operate exclusively to prevent receipt of email.

(2) Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete.

(3) Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and which require the original media or hardware as a condition of access. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.

(4) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling of the ebook's read-aloud function and that prevent the enabling of screen readers to render the text into a specialized format.

[Definitions. (1) "Internet locations" include domains, uniform resource locators (URLs), numeric IP addresses or any combination thereof. (3) "Obsolete" means, "no longer manufactured or reasonably available in the commercial marketplace." (3) "Specialized format," "digital text" and "authorized entities" have the same meaning as in 17 U.S.C. 121.]

"Its disappointing that the US Copyright Office and Librarian continue to relinquish their power to protect the rights of American consumers to lawfully use their own property as Congress had intended when it created this rulemaking proceeding in 1998," says Gross, who testified in both the 2000 and 2003 US Copyright Office Hearings.

Says EFF atoorney Gwen Hinze, "We're disappointed that the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress did not recognize the significant impact that the DMCA is having on millions of consumers' ability to make reasonable uses of digital media they've purchased."


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