Getting Exemptions to Copyright Controls Streamlined

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

The Copyright Office has streamlined the process for renewing exemptions to the law that prohibits getting around technological means of protecting copyrighted works.

Applicants can now refer to evidence submitted the last time their exemption was granted, rather than having to justify the exemption again from scratch. Also, those opposing such an exemption would have to establish that the old evidence was no longer relevant.

The Copyright Office announced the change June 29 as it kicked off the review process—held every three years—to get public input on new temporary exemptions or the renewal of previously granted exemptions.

The agency signaled the change in a June 22 report on the anti-circumvention law. The Copyright Office called on Congress to create some new permanent exemptions, such as ones for repairing mobile phones, cars, and other smart devices. It also said that people with visual impairments should get a permanent exemption.

Every Three Years

Advocates for those with visual impairments have complained of the burden of applying for an exemption every three years just to, for example, get around protections on e-books for text-to-speech functionality. It costs valuable resources, they say, to rebuild a case every time when there seems to be broad agreement that an exemption is justified.

In recent years, the agency has been criticized for not granting exemptions for unlocking smartphones, or for car repairs.

The law barring circumvention of technological protections, Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, lists some permanent exemptions, such as for reverse engineering, encryption research, government activities, and limited exemptions for nonprofit libraries and educational institutions.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at

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