1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Obsolete dongles to become history?

Thanks are due to my friend and fellow blogger Miri Frankel (IP Finance) for drawing my attention to a recent statement by the Librarian Congress relating to classes of works to be exempted from the statutory prohibition under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) against circumventing technological means that prevent access to it. Miri suggests that the two exemptions that will have the biggest impact are likely be (i) the unlocking of phones in order to use otherwise inoperable apps and to use them on other carriers' networks and (ii) circumventing DVD security in order to use materials for educational purposes, comment or criticism. The statement reads thus, in relevant part:
"Statement of the Librarian of Congress Relating to Section 1201 Rulemaking
Section 1201(a)(1) of the copyright law requires that every three years I am to determine whether there are any classes of works that will be subject to exemptions from the statute’s prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work. I make that determination at the conclusion of a rulemaking proceeding conducted by the Register of Copyrights, who makes a recommendation to me. Based on that proceeding and the Register’s recommendation, I am to determine whether the prohibition on circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works is causing or is likely to cause adverse effects on the ability of users of any particular classes of copyrighted works to make noninfringing uses of those works. The classes of works that I designated in the previous proceeding expire at the end of the current proceeding unless proponents of a class prove their case once again.
This is the fourth time that I have made such a determination. Today I have designated six classes of works. Persons who circumvent access controls in order to engage in noninfringing uses of works in these six classes will not be subject to the statutory prohibition against circumvention.
... it is important to understand the purposes of this rulemaking, as stated in the law, and the role I have in it. This is not a broad evaluation of the successes or failures of the DMCA. The purpose ... is to determine whether current technologies that control access to copyrighted works are diminishing the ability of individuals to use works in lawful, noninfringing ways. The DMCA does not forbid the act of circumventing copy controls, and therefore this rulemaking proceeding is not about technologies that control copying. Nor is this rulemaking about the ability to make or distribute products or services used for purposes of circumventing access controls, which are governed by a different part of section 1201. ...
The six classes of works are:
(1) Motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired and that are protected by the Content Scrambling System when circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment, and where the person engaging in circumvention believes and has reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the use in the following instances: (i) Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students; (ii) Documentary filmmaking; (iii) Noncommercial videos
(2) Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset.
(3) Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable used wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telecommunications network, when circumvention is initiated by the owner of the copy of the computer program solely in order to connect to a wireless telecommunications network and access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network.
(4) Video games accessible on personal computers and protected by technological protection measures that control access to lawfully obtained works, when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing for, investigating, or correcting security flaws or vulnerabilities, if (i) The information derived from the security testing is used primarily to promote the security of the owner or operator of a computer, computer system, or computer network; and (ii) The information derived from the security testing is used or maintained in a manner that does not facilitate copyright infringement or a violation of applicable law.
(5) Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete. A dongle shall be considered obsolete if it is no longer manufactured or if a replacement or repair is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace; and
(6) 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 either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format ..."
My initial scepticism that the US approach to technological circumvention and copyright has somewhat evaporated of late, when I contrast the flexible functionality of the position in the US with the principled paralysis of Europe. Am I alone?

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