The Copyright Office has ruled that documentary producers, educators and others can circumvent DVD copy protections so long as they are doing so for "short portions" for documentaries or noncommercial videos (mash-ups for examples) for the purpose of comment or criticism by college students and professors.
That was one of the results of a triennial review of exemptions sought to the Digital Milleninium Copyright Act.
"The Librarian's decision unnecessarily blurs the bright line established in the DMCA against circumvention of technical protection measures," said Motion Picture Association of America spokeswoman Elizabeth Kaltman. "[It] undermines the DMCA, which has fostered greater access to more works by more people than at any time in our history."
Also found not to be in violation of copyright is so-called "jailbreaking" of smart phones, which is circumventing technological measures that prevent third-party software applications from being installed on iPhones or other advanced devices.
"On balance, the Register concludes that when one jailbreaks a smartphone in order to make the operating system on that phone interoperable with an independently created application that has not been approved by the maker of the smartphone or the maker of its operating system, the modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses," said the Copyright Office.
The wireless industry warned that jailbreaking could still be problematic. "While some consumers may welcome the elimination of these copyright protections when considering new applications and features for their wireless devices," CTIA: The Wireless Association said in a statement, "they still need to review the terms of service from their carrier and device manufacturer since altering the underlying source code may void the manufacturer's warranties and adversely affect how the device operates on a wireless network."
"Wireless carriers and handset makers go to great lengths to protect their customer's privacy by blocking spam, filtering for viruses, and testing software that is sold through their portals. Unfortunately, ‘jailbreaking,' or other modifications to a wireless phone's operating system, increases a consumer's risk for malware, spyware and other vulnerabilities."
On the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Copyright Office also decided that if all ebook versions of a literary work contain controls preventing read-aloud funtions or text-to-specialized-format functions, providing such a version does not violate copyright.
Public Knowledge, which lobbies for more fair use rights to copyrighted material, was celebrating. "We are pleased that the Copyright Office will allow consumers the freedom to have more choice of applications for their iPhones," said Sherwin Siy, deputy legal director of Public Knowledge. "This type of decision is long overdue. We are also pleased that the Copyright Office granted exemptions to other categories of works, for example, granting new rights to documentary filmmakers and creators of noncommercial videos to circumvent copyright protections. It also allows the visually impaired to have better access to eBooks."