Industry Groups Review Exemptions to Digital Copyright Rules
December marked the opening of the third round of the triennial rule-making process mandated by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA was established in 1998 to encourage investment in new means of digital distribution of software, movies, books, sound recordings, video games and other works protected by copyright.
The rule-making process is a period where copyright industry groups can review and respond to proposals for temporary exemptions from the provision of the DMCA, which prohibits the circumvention of technologies used to control access to copyrighted materials.
The industry groups are comprised of the Association of American Publishers, the Business Software Alliance, the Entertainment Software Association, the Motion Picture Association of America, and the National Music Publishers Association.
“We look forward to reviewing these proposals and responding to them during the reply round of the proceeding, which ends Feb. 2,” the groups said in a joint statement. The groups noted that since the enactment of the DMCA, the general public has been allowed access to more works with copyrights in several formats and media.
“We believe that the outcome Congress hoped for when it enacted the DMCA is being realized today. The copyright law continues to provide strong incentives for the creation and dissemination of new works. The DMCA’s legal back-up for the technologies that are used to manage this dissemination and to build markets for new media is an indispensable component in the success of these efforts.”
Concern Over Rejected Proposals
At least one group, however, is not happy with the rules being upheld by the DMCA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) believes the DMCA “has proven to be bad policy for a variety of reasons …. In particular, it has been the bane of consumers interested in engaging in fair uses of digital media they have legitimately acquired,” as stated in an EFF report called “DMCA Triennial Rulemaking: Failing the Consumer,” published in December 2005.
For example, EFF proposals that DVD owners be permitted to skip the “unskippable” ads at the beginning of DVDs were rejected by the Copyright Office. So were the group’s proposals to enable consumers to bypass region coding to play a DVD purchased in another part of the world, according to a Nov. 30, 2005, EFF document.
The EFF declined from submitting any proposals for review during the current rule-making process, because it says, “Where consumer interests are concerned, the rulemaking process is simply too broken,” according to its report.
Congress initiated the triennial rule-making proceeding as a fail-safe mechanism for temporarily adjusting the copyright provision of the DMCA when it is demonstrated that the law causes an adverse impact on noninfringing uses of particular classes of works, the groups involved in DMCA said.
“As the Copyright Office seeks to measure proposed exceptions against these criteria, copyright owners look forward to active participation in all phases of the proceeding, which will culminate next fall in the Librarian of Congress’ decision.”