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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Library of Congress Lifts Copyright Protections

(CN) - The Librarian of Congress announced several exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act today, including an exemption permitting the modification of automobile software.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and others requested the Librarian review sections of the Copyright Act last year.

"The 'access control' rule is supposed to protect against unlawful copying," said Foundation staff attorney Kit Walsh in a statement. "But as we've seen in the recent Volkswagen scandal - where VW was caught manipulating smog tests - it can be used instead to hide wrongdoing hidden in computer code. We are pleased that analysts will now be able to examine the software in the cars we drive without facing legal threats from car manufacturers."

The new rule will allow people to modify automobile software for purposes of research, maintenance, or repair.

However, the rule does not take effect for another year, and only lasts for three years.

The Environmental Protection Agency expressed significant reservations about allowing this exemption: "EPA explained that vehicle modifications are often performed to increase engine power or boost fuel economy, but that these modifications increase vehicle emissions and thus violate the Clean Air Act," the library said.

However, the Librarian concluded that "from a copyright perspective, proponents had made the case for an exemption," especially given the importance of furthering research in this field without exposing researchers to lawsuits.

The Librarian also approved an exemption for the use of short film and television clips in documentary filmmaking, in noncommercial videos, and by school faculty and students for educational purposes.

"The exemption would, for example, allow a professor preparing an online lecture about the evolution of Chinese society to circumvent access controls in order to incorporate video clips documenting Chinese history and geography," the rule states.

It also re-affirmed a "jailbreaking" exemption for all smartphones and tablets, allowing owners to remove pre-installed software and run other software on the device that would otherwise be prevented from running.

"As in previous rulemakings, the Register concluded that jailbreaking to facilitate interoperability is likely to constitute a noninfringing fair use, and that the prohibition on circumvention is having an adverse effect on this type of use," the Librarian said.

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