New Exemptions to Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Practice update: The Library of Congress recently updated the exceptions to the Digitial Millenium Copyright Act across ten classes of works.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes it illegal to circumvent technological protection measures — such as encryption tools, password control systems, or time access controls — that are used to prevent unauthorized access to copyrighted works including movies, software, games and web content. Under the Act, the Library of Congress is required to make determinations every three years regarding limited exemptions to the law. The purpose of these exemptions is to prevent technological protection measures from adversely affecting noninfringing uses of copyrighted works. In the latest rule making, issued on October 28, the Library of Congress exempted a number of types of works from such protection in particular circumstances.

In particular, the Library issued new exemptions for the following ten classes of works:

  1. Motion pictures, including television shows and videos, where the circumvention is solely to make use of short portions for purposes of criticism and comment in certain instances.
  2. Literary works, distributed electronically (e.g., e-books), where the circumvention allows a blind or other person with a disability to utilize an assistive technology.
  3. Computer programs that unlock wireless phones to enable them to establish an authorized connection to a wireless telecommunication network.
  4. Computer programs that enable jailbreaking so that software that is otherwise blocked can be installed on a smartphone or mobile computing device.
  5. Computer programs that enable jailbreaking of smart TVs so that software can be executed on and operated with computer programs on the smart TV.
  6. Computer programs that are contained in and that control the functioning of a car or other motorized land vehicle to diagnose, repair, or lawfully modify a vehicle function.
  7. Computer programs on a device or machine for the purposes of security research.
  8. Video games for which the copyright owner has ceased to provide access to a server necessary for game play.
  9. Computer programs that operate 3D printers employing microchips to limit the use of feedstock for the purpose of using alternate feedstock.
  10. Compilations of data generated by medical devices for access by a patient to data generated by his or her own device.

These exemptions expire after three years, and are in addition to permanent exemptions relating to: certain activities of nonprofit libraries and law enforcement agencies; reverse engineering for facilitating interoperability; encryption technology research; access by minors to material on the Internet; activities solely for preventing collection or dissemination of personally identifying information; security testing; and exemptions related to wireless telephones.

Source: FR 2015-27212, available at

About the author

Sheridan Ross Shareholder Brad Knepper manages a large portfolio of work for domestic and international clients. In his practice he prepares and prosecutes patent applications, prepares opinions and agreements, and counsels clients regarding intellectual property protection strategies. Mr. Knepper takes a keen interest in the technologies that he works with including semiconductors, image sensors, displays, LIDAR systems, antennas, memory, computer security, software, medical devices, fuel cells, communication systems and many more.

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