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Copyright Office publishes digital exemptions
Published: 2006-11-23

The U.S. office in charge of creating allowed exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has granted researchers the right to hack the security preventing interoperability of wireless phones with other carriers' networks and to reverse engineer the digital rights management on audio CDs for security testing.

The exemptions, which will take effect Monday, November 27 and last three years, are among a total of six published by the U.S. Copyright Office this week. The periodic rulings, specifically called for by Section 1201 of the DMCA, allow people to circumvent the copyright protections surrounding digital content in particular circumstances.

By allowing users of wireless phones to circumvent security to use their phone on another carrier's network, the U.S. Copyright Office is agreeing that users are not being allowed the full legal rights to the hardware that they purchased. The exception for security researchers investigating digital rights management (DRM) software included on audio CDs hails back to the controversy surrounding the overreaching copy protections installed on PCs by dozens of titles published by Sony BMG.

Other exemptions allow media studies and film professors to circumvent access controls to make compilations for educational purposes, allow librarians and archivists to remove security measures to preserve copies of obsolete programs and games, and allow users to bypass a program's requirement for a special dongle if a replacement for the hardware is not readily available. The last case allows accessibility programs to disable the security of e-books if all version have access controls that prevent a read-aloud function.

The six exemptions are the largest number ever granted by the U.S. Copyright Office, which granted exceptions to two classes of work in 2000 and four classes in 2003. Each exemption expires after three years.

Posted by: Robert Lemos
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