Three profs. from UPenn win exemption

The Chronicle of Higher Education – Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Professors and Librarians Win Narrow Exemptions to Rules in Digital Copyright Act

for audio from NPR go here.

By SCOTT CARLSONThe U.S. Copyright Office has issued a handful of exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that may benefit media professors, archivists, and other academics. Under certain circumstances, they will now be allowed to circumvent access-control technologies on various electronic media.Under one of the six exemptions, all of which will expire after three years, professors of film and media studies can circumvent the access-control technology of DVD’s in their libraries to use clips of films more easily in class.

Peter Decherney, an assistant professor of cinema studies at the University of Pennsylvania, was a central figure pushing for the exemption, which was announced late on Wednesday of last week.

“I’m shocked by it and very pleased,” said Mr. Decherney, who noted that similar exemptions had been proposed and rejected in the past. “I think it opens the door to more exemptions and greater protection of fair use.”

Mr. Decherney had testified about the need for the rule change. “I could show them how we use clips” — pulled out for use in slide shows, side by side, with text, and so on, he said. He also demonstrated that changing DVD’s manually and fast forwarding to relevant portions of a film could eat up as much as 10 percent of class time.

Observers considered this exemption the most applicable to academe. They noted that the exemption did not define a “film and media studies professor,” and that it may not apply to professors in other disciplines who simply use film clips for teaching.

“It wouldn’t necessarily include others who are not media-studies professors, including students,” said Alex Curtis, the government affairs manager for Public Knowledge, an advocacy group that focuses on copyright.

Representatives of media organizations like the Motion Picture Association of America opposed the exemption. They did not return calls from The Chronicle on Monday.

Five other exemptions were included in the final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on Monday. Some — like an exemption that allows blind people to circumvent access-control technology on e-books so that the books can be used with screen readers — were renewals of exemptions already in place. Others, like an exemption that allows wireless telephones to connect to wireless communication networks, seemed to have little application in academe.

Another exemption allows libraries and archives to circumvent access-control technology on obsolete computer programs and video games in order to archive and preserve them. This rule is a narrowed-down version of a previous exemption that allowed consumers to circumvent technology in such cases.

The sixth exemption allows people to circumvent access-control technology to test, investigate, and correct security flaws in the copy-protection software included on audio compact discs. Sony BMG Music Entertainment had secretly included such copy-protection software on CD’s last year, which caused a series of security problems. Edward W. Felten, professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University, was a leading proponent of the exemption.

Copyright © 2006 by The Chronicle of Higher Education


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