New DMCA Anti-Circumvention Provisions

by Bill Unsworth on August 10, 2010

Updating our previous item on ACTA’s anti-circumvention rules, in the latest DMCA rulemaking session, the Library of Congress revised the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, and have significantly expanded the freedoms afforded to users over those in the previous iteration.  The biggest new exceptions are these three:

  • Content Scrambling System-protected DVDs may now be unscrambled, if such is necessary for educational use, documentary films, or other noncommercial films
  • Circumventing restrictions on ebooks, to the extent that circumvention is necessary to enable the “read aloud” or text-to-speech function to work

The response to the July 25 decision was swift: on August 1, the first publicly available jailbreak for the iPhone 4 was released (major caveat: jailbreaking can render your phone inoperable.)  The CSS exception is a significant one, as well – CSS previously presented a partial barrier to otherwise permissible fair use, to the extent that taking clips from a CSS-protected DVD required circumvention.  The text-to-speech exception is also notable, given Amazon’s struggle with questions over the legality of the Kindle 2’s text-to-speech function and the iPad’s inclusion of a text-to-speech feature, which was lauded by the National Federation for the Blind back in January.  Given the significant enabling of non-infringing use that each of the three exceptions represents, it’s heartening to see the Library of Congress has taken steps toward a more sensible policy on DRM circumvention.

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