The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed petitions with the U.S. Copyright Office seeking to keep users who remix DVD content or jailbreak their devices from losing their legal safe harbors and to establish new rights for those who need to circumvent “access control” or “digital rights management” (DRM) technologies for activities such as conducting security research, repairing cars, and resuscitating old video games. The petitions were submitted as part of the complex, triennial rulemaking process that determines exemptions from Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
With the passage of the DMCA in 1998, Congress created “anti-circumvention” measures, ostensibly designed to prevent people from undermining DRM for purposes of copyright infringement. Recognizing that the law could impede lawful and important uses of copyrighted works, Congress included a provision in which the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress are tasked with deciding which activities should and should not be exempted every three years through a complicated legal process.
The rulemaking process allows organizations like EFF to fight for the rights that digital businesses and consumers should already have. Even when petitions are successful, groups such as EFF still need to fight for each exemption to be reinstated each cycle.