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Public Knowledge Pushes For DVD Circumvention

Public Knowledge is pushing the Copyright Office to allow consumers to bypass copy protections on their DVDs to allow them to move the content onto other devices, as they currently do with their CDs.

Sherwin Siy, VP for legal affairs for Public Knowledge, a leading advocate for fair use rights for consumers, is scheduled to testify before the Copyright Office in L.A. Tuesday, according to the group.

"Right now, the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] make it illegal for people to do with their DVDs what they can with their CDs. Consumers' movie collections are languishing on optical media that's becoming increasingly obsolete in a world of tablet computing and wireless data transfer," said Siy before taking his case to the office. "In this way, the DMCA is costing consumers money and value today – either locking up, or forcing repurchase of, movies and TV shows they already own. Even worse, the untold number of films and videos unavailable in online formats are completely unavailable to a wide range of devices."

Not surprisingly given the ease with which content placed on a digital device can be shared widely and almost instantly, TV and movie studios, software companies and the recording industry are less sanguine about allowing those protections to be circumvented via space- and format-shifting of content. The Motion PIcture Association of America has said it is OK with current exemptions, but does not support any new or expanded ones.

Fair use fans, including Public Knowledge, were buoyed earlier this year when a U.S. District court ruled that Dish’s Slingbox technology, which moves programming from a set-top box to other devices, cuts out commercials, and makes copies that can be played back on a mobile devices did not violate copyright laws. Public Knowledge has cited that and other fair use court victories in making its pitch to the Copyright Office in filings, calling the Fox v. Dish decision as the last word from the courts on personal use copying.

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.