Without much fanfare, the US Copyright Office has made some modifications to its 2008 rules enumerating instances where defeating DRM will not be considered to be a violation of the DMCA. Those most likely to have an impact on most users:
- Copying and creating clips from a legally-purchased DVD for the purpose of use in: a) documentary filmmaking; b) non-commercial videos; and c) educational use by college and university professors and students.
This is good news for a number of reasons. It enables groups like Brave New Films and others to use short clips for the purpose of creating new videos without any fear of receiving a DMCA violation notice, and allows for a higher-quality clip than could be obtained via capture.
- Defeating locks on wireless smartphones (jailbreaking) in order to run software made by third-parties. The iPhone is routinely jailbroken by many in order to run apps which are not approved by Apple or available in Apple's approved app store. Jailbreakers have, in the past, faced the threat that the DMCA would be used to keep users from jailbreaking the phone because a copy of the phone's firmware is used as the foundation for the enhanced version used to jailbreak the phone.
The actual text of the rule takes a whack at Apple's iPhone silo in the process:
Apple's objections to the installation and use of "unapproved" applications appears to have nothing to do with its interests as the owner of copyrights in the computer programs embodied in the iPhone, and running the unapproved applications has no adverse effect on those interests. Rather, Apple's objections relate to its interests as a manufacturer and distributor of a device, the iPhone.
- Unlocking locked phones - Another iPhone/ATT volley, it appears. I found this language particularly pointed:
Moreover, because it appears that the opposition to designating the proposed class is based primarily on the desires of wireless carriers to preserve an existing business model that has little if anything to do with protecting works of authorship...
...It seems clear that the primary purpose of the locks is to keep consumers bound to their existing networks, rather than to protect the rights of copyright owners in their capacity as copyright owners. This observation is not a criticism of the mobile phone industry's business plans and practices, which may well be justified for reasons having nothing to do with copyright law and policy, but simply a recognition of existing circumstances.
This echoes my biggest frustration about the mobile phone industry. I love my iPhone, but I'm not in love with AT&T. I should be able to pull out my AT&T sim card and connect to another wireless network with the same phone number and the same phone. Locking the phone locks me to a network not of my choice. That's not how a free market should work.
These are some pretty substantial rules, made by regulators as authorized under the law.
All of which proves that good government isn't only about what happens in the House and Senate, but what happens in the regulatory agencies after the House and Senate have done their job. For all of the complaints about how the legislative calendar has not fulfilled expectations, it's worth noting that a major shift in how government operates is underway. Regulations actually mean something, and benefit consumers.