On October 26, 2018 the US Library of Congress and the Copyright Office expanded exemptions to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Section 1201 makes it illegal to circumvent technological protection measures (TPMs); digital locks which control access to copyrighted works. In the 2018 Final Rule, the Copyright Office expands the exceptions to allow:
- circumventing TPMs to use short portions of motion pictures for i) documentaries, non-commercial videos, and e-books; and ii) educational purposes by schools, students, and online courses;
- circumventing TPMs to use motion pictures for the purpose of providing accessibility services to students;
- unlocking new phones, and not just used ones as was previously allowed;
- jailbreaking ‘voice assistant devices’ such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home;
- more protection from legal threats for repairers of digital devices, vehicles, and appliances;
- repairing land vehicles by modifying their software; and
- circumventing TPMs in old video games and software for certain specified uses.
This list of expanded exceptions is welcome news to advocates of the right to repair and the right to tinker. The complete set of exceptions outlined in past Final Rules can be found here, with a more digestible version on Wikipedia.
The changes made in the US are an interesting contrast to the situation in Canada, where no new exceptions permitting circumvention of TPMs have been introduced since TPMs were granted legal protection in 2012.