The U.S. Copyright Office has issued its report, creating exemptions to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions for the next three years. The exemptions allow people to circumvent access control technologies under certain closely constrained conditions. The exemption rulemaking, which happens every three years, was created by Congress as a kind of safety valve, intended to keep the DMCA from stifling fair use too severely.
This time around, exemptions were granted for (1) access to the “block-lists” of censorware products, and (2) works protected by various types of broken or obsolete access control mechanisms.
My own exemption request, asking for exemptions for information security researchers, was denied as expected.
It is abundantly clear by now that the DMCA has had a chilling effect on legitimate research related to access control technologies. When researchers ask Washington for a solution to this problem, they have so far gotten a Catch-22 answer. When we ask Congress do to something, we are told to seek an exemption in the Copyright Office rulemaking. But when we petitioned the Copyright Office for an exemption in the 2000 rulemaking, we were told that the Copyright Office did not have the power to grant the kind of exemption we had requested.
So this time, I wrote an exemption request that was designed to end the Catch-22 – to entice the Copyright Office to either (a) grant an exemption for researchers, or (b) state flatly that Congress had not given it the power to grant any kind of useful research exemption. As I read the Copyright Office’s findings (see pages 14-15 of the short version, or pages 86-89 of the extended dance version; they designate my request as number 3), they have essentially said (b) – exemptions of the type I requested “cannot be considered.”