EFF Working to Expand Jailbreaking and Remix Rights with DMCA

Electronic Frontier FoundationThe Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has recently recommended that the U.S. Copyright Office renew and expand the critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Last year, the request was granted in response to EFF’s request to protect the rights of consumers who modify electronic gadgets and make remix videos.

The request is going further to protect the rights of those consumers who partake in “jailbreaking” of smartphones, electronic tablets, and video game consoles. The EFF is also seeking legal protections for artists and critics who use excerpts from DVDs or downloading services to create new, remixed works.

The EFF’s Intellectual Property Director, Corynne McSherry, had this to say about the current use of the DMCA:

“The DMCA is supposed to block copyright infringement. But instead it can be misused to threaten creators, innovators, and consumers, discouraging them from making full and fair use of their own property. Hobbyists and tinkerers who want to modify their phones or video game consoles to run software programs of their choice deserve protection under the law. So do artists and critics who use short excerpts of video content to create new works of commentary and criticism. Copyright law shouldn’t be stifling such uses – it should be encouraging them.”

The Copyright Office’s rule making process for the DMCA takes place every three years to consider exemptions, and the EFF’s requests are part of this process. The Copyright Office will hold hearings on the proposed DMCA exemptions in the spring of 2012, with a final rulemaking order expected in October 2012.

Analysis: The most famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) DMCA take-down notice took place with Geohot and his hack for the PS3. The primary idea behind it was to bring back the Other OS option for those who use it for legitimate reasons like the US Air Force and networking them as a supercomputer cluster, or those like me who want to learn Linux. There are, of course, other reasons like pirating games or hacking games to enable cheating. These problems are primarily a concern for the PC. Sony was quick to respond by issuing DMCA take-down notices left and right. This was, in my view, an abuse of the DMCA because Sony took away a feature that was used and cherished by many, and we had recourse beyond a lawsuit.

I understand we primarily only hear when it is obviously being misused for reasons beyond what it was meant to protect. However, there are times I hear about when it does help to protect content, like original work or leaked footage of others’ hard work. I know when I get those Humble Bundles, some of it goes to the EFF and seeing this makes me happy. They are fighting for fair use of content on the Internet and our electronic devices we paid for; we should not be chained to an EULA that takes away our basic rights, and these clearly fall under them.

At the end of the day, the EFF is, in my book, doing a good job with these exemptions. I hope that these exemptions are included to further protect those who like to think outside the box of what is, and try what could be, without the fear of retaliation from those who abuse the DMCA.


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