Revisions to DMCA could loosen copyright protections

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Revisions to DMCA could loosen copyright protections

Fri May 01, 2009 @ 03:17PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Copyright-symbol Hollywood is tuned into a federal court in San Francisco where a hotly contested case between the movie studios and Real Networks will decide whether a technology that allows consumers a simple way to back up commercial DVDs to hard drives is in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's prohibition on circumventing copy controls.

Anyone following the proceedings might wish to take a break from seeing RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser get grilled on the witness stand and head to Stanford Law School. The moot court room in Room 80 to be exact.


As Hollywood and the technology community debate the meaning of the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions, there's an active effort underway to change those provisions entirely.

Today, and continuing on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of next week, the U.S. Copyright Office is holding hearings to discuss exemptions to the rules. The agenda includes:

  • Audiovisual works released on DVD, where circumvention is undertaken solely for the purpose of extracting clips for inclusion in noncommercial videos that do not infringe copyright.
  • Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset.
  • Lawfully purchased sound recordings, audiovisual works, and software programs distributed commercially in digital format by online music and media stores and protected by technological measures that depend on the continued availability of authenticating servers, when such authenticating servers cease functioning because the store fails or for other reasons. 
That's a lot of technical jargon, but in essence, if these measures pass, consumers would be much more free to hack an iPhone or bust DRM in some instances on subscription streaming video or music websites. The measures would also free up educators and documentarians to rip DVDs to find clips to use.

Many good lawyers will be on hand to argue their cause, from Fritz Attaway from the MPAA to Fred von Lohmann at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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