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US Copyright Office Unveils DMCA Circumvention Exemptions

by Glen Shapiro, LawAndTax-News.com, New York

28 November 2006


The Librarian of Congress, on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, recently announced several classes of works subject to the exemption from the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works.

Persons making noninfringing uses of the following six classes of works will not be subject to the prohibition against circumventing access controls contained in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) during the next three years.

  1. Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors.
  2. Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and that require the original media or hardware as a condition of access, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive. 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.
  3. Computer programs protected by dongles (hardware devices that connect to a computer to authenticate software) 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.
  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 either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.
  5. Computer programs in the form of firmware that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.
  6. Sound recordings, and audiovisual works associated with those sound recordings, distributed in compact disc format and protected by technological protection measures that control access to lawfully purchased works and create or exploit security flaws or vulnerabilities that compromise the security of personal computers, when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing, investigating, or correcting such security flaws or vulnerabilities.

These exemptions came into effect upon publication in the Federal Register on Monday, and will remain in effect through October 27, 2009.


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