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March 19, 2012
Copyright Office Hearings On DMCA Exemptions Announced
The Copyright Office is holding hearings on exemptions to prohibitions on circumvention of copyright protection systems for access control technologies, or the stuff that companies use to prevent consumers from mucking about with the electronics and content that they buy. Some of the information about this process, mandated by the DMCA every three years, is here. The March 15th Federal Register notice announcing the hearings is here.
It announces that the first public hearing, confined to demonstrations of technology, will be held in Washington, DC on Friday, May 11, 2012 at 10 a.m. Public hearings will also be conducted in Los Angeles, California at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 17, 2012 and Friday, May 18, 2012, and in Washington, DC at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 31, 2012, Friday, June 1, 2012, and Monday, June 4 through Wednesday, June 6, 2012. Requests to testify must be received by 5 p.m. E.D.T. on Monday, April 2, 2012
There are two small points about the announcement worth mentioning. One is that the link in the notice for requests to testify submitted through the request form available at http://www.copyright.gov/1201/hearing-request leads to a "page not found message." Another paragraph in the notice says this:
Requests to testify must be submitted via the Office’s Web site form located at http://www.copyright.gov/1201/ and must be received by 5 p.m. E.D.T. on Monday, April 2, 2012. Persons who are unable to send requests via the Web site should contact Ben Golant, Assistant General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel at (202) 707–8380 to make alternative arrangements for submission of their requests to testify.
The second point is that the referenced page does not contain (as of this writing) a link to the online form. Sometimes the old contact technologies work the best, I guess. One of the items for which an exemption is sought is literary works in the public domain that are made available in digital copies. This was submitted by the Open Book Alliance. Here’s some of the relevant text in the OBA’s statement:
It is well known that Google, Inc. has reproduced millions of books in their entirety, including both those in the public domain and those that remain in-copyright, through systematic scanning operations set up with several large research libraries. Less well known is that Google has contractually required these libraries "to implement technological measures . . . to restrict automated access to any portion of the [digital book copy] or the portions of [the library] website, that make those copies accessible to library patrons - including digital files of books in the public domain.
By definition, the imposition of TPMs on digital copies of these public domain works will "adversely affect" users in "their ability to make non-infringing uses" of them within the meaning of Section 1201(a)(1)(C). Section 1201 was never intended to protect a company's non-copyright business interests in public domain works, particularly where it could be used for anticompetitive purposes.
Comments are closed on the proposed classes of exemptions, but the requests to testify at a hearing are not, assuming anyone can make a formal request to testify. The deadline is two weeks away. [MG]