Authors Alliance Petitions to Renew Multimedia E-Book Exemption to Section 1201 of the DMCA

Posted August 1, 2017
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While copyright law generally provides for exceptions like fair use that maintain our ability to criticize, comment on, and transform copyrighted works, some courts have held that these exceptions do not apply to the anti-circumvention provisions of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), for the most part, do not recognize these kinds of exceptions. Evading digital rights management (DRM), even when done for otherwise lawful purposes—such as education and criticism—may be prohibited by law. However, every three years, the Librarian of Congress is empowered to approve discrete, temporary exemptions from the law in order to carve out space for non-infringing uses caught up in the DMCA’s broad sweep.

In February 2015, in response to the U.S. Copyright Office’s sixth triennial rulemaking session, Authors Alliance joined with author Bobette Buster, the American Association of University Professors, and counsel from legal clinics at the UC Irvine and the University of Colorado, Boulder to submit comments in support of exemptions that would allow authors to make use of DRM-protected multimedia content in e-books. That spring, our team attended hearings in Washington, DC to make a case for the exemptions, and in October 2015 the Copyright Office released its final rule, which includes an exemption for multimedia e-books offering film analysis.

That exemption allows e-book authors to circumvent digital locks on Blu-rays, DVD, and digitally transmitted video such as downloads and streaming for purposes of film analysis. The rule gives authors access to a wealth of high definition content—particularly, from Blu-ray—that they need in order to make fair uses in multimedia e-books.

Now, as we approach the seventh triennial rulemaking session in 2018, our team has submitted a petition to renew these exemptions. (Further details can be found in the full text of our petition. Hover over the document below to view the petition in your browser, or download here.) Authors Alliance believes that multimedia e-books are an important form of authorship and wants to see authors empowered to fully realize their promise. The freedom to author e-books that incorporate film for the purpose of analysis, consistent with the core tenets of the First Amendment and academic freedom, remains significant and important. We will continue to track the progress of the 2017-2018 rulemaking and provide updates as they become available.