On July 26, 2010, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the classes of works subject to exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Section 1210 of the U.S. Code (www.copyright.gov/1201/). The legislation prohibits the circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works.
DMCA is an addition to the existing Copyright Act of 1976, intended to deal with the rise of digital media and mass online proliferation. The act has made bypassing digital-rights management for personal or educational consumption illegal. This could mean copying DVDs or MP3s, or in the case of the smartphones, being able to download applications and software not authorized by manufacturers.
Every three years, Section 1201 requires the Librarian of Congress to determine whether there are any classes of works that will be exempt from the statute’s prohibition. This is the fourth time the Librarian has made such a determination—this time designating six classes of works that will not be subject to the statutory prohibition against circumvention under 17 U.S.C. §1201(a)(1).
The six exemptions allow:
(1) cell-phone users to unlock their mobile devices to run applications not approved by phone manufacturers—a practice commonly known as “jailbreaking”—and to break access controls on their phones in order to switch wireless carriers;
(2) gamers to break technical protections on video games to investigate or correct security flaws;
(3) college professors, film students and documentary filmmakers to break copy-protection measures on DVDs so they can embed clips for educational purposes, criticism or commentary and noncommercial videos;
(4) computer owners to bypass the need for external security devices called “dongles” if the dongle no longer works and cannot be replaced;
(5) computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications that have been obtained lawfully; and
(6) people who are visually impaired to break locks on electronic books so that they can use them with read-aloud software or similar aids.