There was a recent viral story about Apple "deleting" purchased movies from someone's library. As always with these stories, there's a little more to it, but I'm here to tell you that the details don't really matter. And because this is being published on the International Day Against DRM, I'm here to tell you that it's DRM’s fault.
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.
At the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), we have worked for nearly a century to break down societal barriers and eliminate discrimination by achieving equal access to the world of copyrighted works. But for all the promise of technology to provide equal access to copyrighted works, the copyright laws that protect those works have sometimes served to impede that technology.
One of our top issues we tackled in 2015 was reforming Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). To recap, Section 1201 makes it illegal to break digital locks in order to access copyrighted works (like the movie on a DVD or software in a device), even for legitimate purposes. Every three years, public interest groups spend time and money petitioning the Copyright Office to exempt certain uses and technologies from this law. The Library of Congress released the most recent decisions for this triennial process in October 2015. One example that affects many people that we have yet to touch on is vehicle use. You may not have thought about how copyright law regulates your car. However, cars are increasingly powered as much by software as they are by motors.
This post is the fourth installment of #CopyrightwithCourtney, a series from Courtney Duffy on the copyright challenges faced by artists in various disciplines. Courtney is the Robert W. Deutsch Arts & Technology Policy Fellow at Public Knowledge. This post focuses on the recent DMCA exemption decisions from the Library of Congress, and their effect on filmmakers.