Copyright Office: Circumvention Prohibition Framework Remains Sound

The U.S. Copyright Office has not recommended any big changes in the law prohibiting "the circumvention of technological measures employed by or on behalf of copyright owners to protect access to their works." 

That includes the encryption that protects DVDs from being pirated and copied.

The news came in a just-released report on the relevant law, contained in Sec. 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

The section also prohibits trafficking in technology that facilitates circumvention.

"In its report, the Office does not recommend altering the basic framework of section 1201, concluding that its overall structure and scope remain sound," the Copyright Office said. "It does, however, recommend certain legislative updates, including expanding existing exemptions for security and encryption research and adding new provisions to allow circumvention for other purposes, such as the use of assistive reading technologies and the repair of devices. The report also recommends an amendment to give the Librarian of Congress discretion to authorize third parties to assist the beneficiaries of temporary exemptions granted via the statute’s triennial rulemaking proceeding."

"NTIA congratulates the Copyright Office for completing its important study of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act," said NTIA associate administrator John Morris. "This thoughtful analysis outlines a number of important steps that can be taken to maximize the potential of the digital marketplace. We look forward to continuing our longstanding collaboration with the Copyright Office as the next round of rulemaking begins."

The Center for Democracy and Technology was pleased with the recommendation that the exemption for cybersecurity research was currently too narrow but pointed out that Congress will still need to act on recommendations in the report.

The Motion Picture Association of America had no comment at presstime but is obviously interested in the state of circumvention protections. The issue has been a hot one in the context of VidAngel's assertion that the Family Viewing Act exemption allows it to edit and distribute edited versions of copyrighted content like movies and TV shows. MPAA members are suing the company, arguing that the DMCA's circumvention prohibitions do indeed apply.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.