According to InfoDocket, the US Copyright Office has opened a public inquiry into the way the DMCA works. From now until 25 February, the Copyright Office is inviting the public to submit comments:
The United States Copyright Office is undertaking a public study to assess the operation of section 1201 of Title 17, including the triennial rulemaking process established under the DMCA to adopt exemptions to the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. To aid this effort, and to ensure thorough assistance to Congress, the Office is seeking public input on a number of key questions.
The comments have to be submitted digitally, and according to the notice filed in the Federal Register (PDF) they're limited to just the topic of exemptions, and not for example DMCA takedown notices.
That means we can't use this inquiry to lobby for changes to how takedown notices work, or push to get Section 1201 balanced by the addition of penalties for bogus notices, but there's still some good news here.
The notice specifically mentions that Copyright Office is seeking comment on how rules affect consumers, the vagaries of the rule-making process, permanent exemptions, and third-party exemptions.
To name one example, would you like for it to be legal for a mechanic to bypass the DRM in your car so you don't have to do it yourself? Under the current rules, you have the right to bypass that DRM but it is still illegal for anyone to do it on your behalf (strange, but true). Now we have the opportunity to argue why that should change.
And do you want the Copyright Office to grant permanent exemptions to the DMCA, ones which don't have to be renewed every three years?
For example, are you of the opinion that pursuits like security research deserve a permanent exemption to the DMCA?
Now would be a good time to speak up.
As things are currently set up, every exemption, including the ones that were announced in October, have to be requested during the Copyright Office's triennial review process. Advocates have to argue again and again to defend exemptions as reasonable as letting the disabled strip DRM so they can access the content in a usable form.
And as you may recall from 2013, there's no guarantee that an existing exemption will stay in place. Remember, jailbreaking your phone was legal right up until it wasn't, and it took an act of Congress to make it legal again.
If you would like to see the rules changed so we don't have to go through that again, you can submit your comments on the US Copyright Office's website.
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