Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Rights with Copyright

Today’s issue of the Federal Register contains a new final rule from the Copyright Office, “Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies”(background and supplemental documents). The new rule outlines six situations which are now exempted from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition against “circumvention” of copyright law.

The news was welcomed by a wide audience, including smartphone users (it’s now considered “fair use” to “jailbreak” your iPhone; see analysis at Ars Technica), computer programmers (“good faith testing” of computer and video game security is no longer punishable), and e-book fans who require accessibility software (it’s OK to “crack” your e-book reader for the purpose of enabling read-aloud software, if the reader software or e-book title does not already offer this feature) (sorry e-book fans; this recommendation from the Librarian of Congress actually didn't make it into the final rule; perhaps the next triennial round of exemptions will include it).

But the most exciting news around Goodson Blogson HQ was the expansion of fair use rights as they relate to DVDs. Previous exemptions had allowed college/university professors to incorporate copyright-protected DVD clips in the classroom, but look who now can incorporate “short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment [. . . with] reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the use”:
  • Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students;
  • Documentary filmmaking;
  • Noncommercial videos.
Will we see an upswing in documentary-making activity in the library’s Student Media Workshop? Will our Legal DVD collection be raided regularly? Will you bookmark every legal online movie source from our February 2010 roundup (and also MovieClips, a great search engine which we sadly forgot at the time)? We sure hope so.

These exemptions are set and re-evaluated by the Librarian of Congress every three years, so enjoy them while they last. (Records of the previous anticircumvention rulemaking are available at the Copyright Office website.)