This summer, the Copyright Office released a study on Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Section 1201 is the provision of the law that allows copyright owners to digitally lock you out of your own stuff, preventing everything from connecting your cellphone to a different carrier, to ripping your DVDs to your tablet, to accessing the diagnostic system in your car. We’ve long advocated for reforming this law which unnecessarily limits user rights, and actively participated in the Office’s study of Section 1201. The resulting report is less than we hoped for; while the Office has recommended some important and needed changes to the law and its application, it mostly leaves the law in place and has us asking what could have been. The report does, however, reveal something interesting about how the Copyright Office thinks about Section 1201--namely, when it chooses to believe (or not believe) the users.
As we’ve been talking about recently, the Copyright Office has a long history of being bad at its job, and misrepresenting the law it’s charged with understanding. Anyone familiar with tech policy already knows about the debacle that is the exemption process under Section 1201, but it doesn’t end there. Aside from its seemingly never-ending quest to accumulate more power by pulling non-copyright issues under its umbrella, the Office pushes wildly expansive interpretations of copyright law--asserting rights that don’t exist, interpreting consumer safeguards so narrowly as to render them useless, preventing consumers from using assistive technologies, creating “solutions” that nobody asked for, and otherwise making bizarre proclamations that completely ignore relevant facts and law. Over and over again, the Copyright Office bends over backwards to align its positions with the lobbying agendas of the big entertainment conglomerates.
Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed suit against the Copyright Office and the Department of Justice, challenging the government’s enforcement of the technological controls imposed under Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Under this statute, the Librarian of Congress is charged with reviewing and granting exemptions when necessary to protect legitimate innovation, free expression, and other public interests. Among its other claims, EFF alleges that the Copyright Office -- which conducts this review on behalf of the Librarian -- has mismanaged the process and repeatedly failed to grant valid exemptions, in violation of the First Amendment and the Administrative Procedure Act.
Last Friday, Public Knowledge filed comments with the Copyright Office as part of that Office’s ongoing studies on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The Office is currently conducting studies of Sections 512 and 1201 - the notice-and-takedown and anticircumvention provisions, respectively - of the DMCA. Public Knowledge has been a leader in calling for reform of Section 1201, and fighting for stronger user protections in Section 512. We filed our comments to ensure that the Copyright Office gives due consideration to the public interest on these issues.
We’re proud that 3D/DC 2016 marks the fifth anniversary of bringing the 3D printing community to Capitol Hill to talk policy. This year’s event takes place in the Rayburn House Office Building on Thursday, April 14 - now less than a month away! You should come.