Librarian of Congress Announces Exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), passed in 1998, criminalizes the act of circumventing technology, such as passwords or scrambling systems, that controls access to digital materials.  The Librarian of Congress, in conjunction with the Register of Copyrights, must hold hearings every three years to determine whether there should be exceptions to the DMCA, in order to allow for non-infringing uses of a work. Exceptions last for three years, and may be renewed.

This week the Librarian of Congress announced the following exceptions:

 – Owners of smartphones are permitted to “jailbreak” their phone for the purpose of making the operating system on the phone interoperable with a lawfully obtained application that has not been approved by the maker of the smartphone.

 – Faculty in any discipline, and higher-ed film and media students can bypass copy-protection on DVDs in order to use film clips for educational purposes, or for the purposes of criticism or commentary. The Librarian further expanded this exception to documentary filmmaking and noncommercial videos.

 – Under certain circumstances consumers are allowed to circumvent protections that block the read-aloud/screen-reader function on e-books.

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