Digital Rights Rules Modified to Suit Our Times

The Library of Congress recently published new rules to replace a set of provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The Library of Congress oversees the U.S. Copyright Office.

The revised provisions were a subject of much debate. Although they were written to protect the intellectual property, advocates for digital privacy, security and civil liberties claimed that times had changed in such a way that the sanctions severely limited ordinary citizens who weren’t intending to break the law in any way.

emissionFor example, one of the limitations prohibited that any modifications be made to certain devices, even if the modifications were being made solely for the sake of security research. These laws were part of the reason that companies like VW could outfit their cars with illegal software for so long without risking liability; there were mountains of red tape that made testing the software extremely difficult.

The American Foundation for the Blind was one of many interest groups that backed the advocates for change. The AFB was frustrated that the provisions made it impossible to access electronic books without being liable.

“Our situation sort of illustrates in fully stark terms why the 1202 process needs to be fundamentally rethought,” explains EFB director of public policy Mark Richert.

Advocates were happy to see the changes finally be made.

“We’re pleased with the new exemption for jailbreaking,” said Mitch Stoltz, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “The Library of Congress eliminated the arbitrary and increasingly meaningless distinction between smartphones and tablets, and gave some legal protection to users of many more kinds of mobile devices.”

According to Stoltz, the changed law had originally forced the EFF to “spend significant time and resources every three years to simply give device owners the right to use software of their choice” on their mobile phones and devices.

Managing partner at RSR Research had this to say:iphone

“The whole issue gets back to what users want. It’s been my view that Apply users want technology that works, and are willing to pay for assurances that anything they download will behave as expected and won’t crash the device. This is really the same driving force that led people to choose a Macintosh instead of a Windows PC.”

Content providers, on the other hand, were none too pleased.

“Without the protections embodied in Section 1201, many of these platforms simply would not exist,” claimed Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) spokesman Howard Gantman.

“We are pleased that today’s ruling protects against damaging expansions into space- and format-shifting, and will further encourage the development of new, legal platforms,” he continued. “While we respectfully disagree with certain of today’s rulings, such as those pertaining to Blu-ray discs and smart TVs, we are grateful to Register Pallante and her dedicated staff at the Copyright Office for the hard work that went into the recommendations to the Acting Librarian.”

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