DMCA Exceptions Announced By Librarian of Congress


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) generally prohibits the circumvention of technological measures employed by or on behalf of copyright owners to protect their works (also known as "access controls"). But every three years, there is a rulemaking process that permits the Librarian of Congress, following a public proceeding conducted by the Copyright Office, to grant limited exceptions to the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions in an effort to ensure that the public can still engage in fair and other non-infringing uses of works. This year, exemptions covering 22 types of uses affecting motion pictures, e-books, 3D printers, cellphones, and video games were approved, including:

Computer programs that operate cellphones, tablets, mobile hotspots, and wearable devices such as smartwatches, to allow connection of a device to an alternative wireless network ("unlocking");

  • computer programs that operate smartphones, tablets and other all-purpose mobile computing devices, and smart TVs, to allow the device to interoperate with or to remove software applications ("jailbreaking");
  • computer programs that control motorized land vehicles, including farm equipment, for purposes of diagnosis, repair and modification of the vehicle (effective in 12 months);
  • computer programs that operate devices and machines primarily designed for use by individual consumers, including voting machines, motorized land vehicles, and implantation medical devices, for purposes of good-faith security research (effective in 12 months or, for voting machines, immediately);
  • video games for which outside server support has been discontinued, to allow individual play by gamers and preservation of games by libraries, archives and museums (as well as necessary jailbreaking of console computer code for preservation uses only); and
  • computer programs that operate 3D printers, to allow use of alternative feedstock.

The new rules, which are based on recommendations made by U.S. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, go into effect today (except for certain exceptions as noted above) and are effective for three years through October 2018.

The final rules, along with the analysis and Recommendation of the Register, can be read on the Copyright Office website. A summary can be read in An Introduction to the Register's Recommendation.