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11.11.2003
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Library of Congress fails to ease DMCA controversy

As part of a regular review process of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act , the U.S. Library of Congress has created four new instances in which it is legal to crack digital copyright protections. Not included in the list was the ability to break through usage restrictions on DVDs and CDs in order to use the content in different devices and mediums.

In a statement accompanying the ruling, James Billington, head librarian at the Library of Congress, said he did not have the power to go as far as critics wanted and many of the most expansive proposals for exemptions had been put forward by people who misunderstood the law.

Some participants “sought exemptions that would permit them to circumvent access controls on all works when they are engaging in particular non-infringing uses of those works,” Billington wrote in his statement. “The law does not give me that power.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other groups had called for exemptions to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) ban on circumventing technological locks that prevent consumers from fully enjoying the digital media that they own. These digital locks, technically known as “digital rights management” systems, limit how consumers can play and view their CDs and DVDs.

“Consumers are the real losers in the ruling, because the Library of Congress is ignoring the rights of nearly everyone who has purchased CDs and DVDs,” said EFF Staff Attorney Gwen Hinze. “We’re disappointed that the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress did not recognize the significant impact that the DMCA is having on millions of consumers’ ability to make reasonable uses of digital media they've purchased.”

These new exceptions are:

  • Lists of sites blocked by commercial Internet filtering software, but not spam-fighting lists;

  • Computer programs protected by hardware dongles that are broken or obsolete;

  • Computer programs or video games that use obsolete formats or hardware;

  • E-books that prevent read-aloud or other handicapped access formats from functioning.

For more information visit Library of Congress or Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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