With the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, Congress established a general prohibition on the circumvention of any "technological protection measure" used to limit access to the source material for DVDs and other digital media, even for fair use. The same provision established a triennial rulemaking procedure to identify classes of works that should be exempted from the prohibition. These exemptions must enable a noninfringing use — something that is already permitted under the statute, such as the § 110 exemption for classroom performances and displays.
(1)(A) No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title. ...
(1)(B) The prohibition contained in subparagraph(A) shall not apply to persons who are users of a copyrighted work which is in a particular class of works, if such persons are, or are likely to be in the succeeding 3-year period, adversely affected by virtue of such prohibition in their ability to make noninfringing uses of that particular class of works under this title, ....
In 2006, the Librarian of Congress granted an exemption for “[a]udiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors.” The Librarian indicated that the exemption was based on the need for film and media studies professors to use higher-quality images in their teaching than could be obtained from VHS materials.
Between 2006 and 2009, VHS was abandoned by the media industry as a release format for new works. In light of the evolving technologies, several academic and special library organizations made requests during the 2009 rulemaking for the prior exemption to be expanded to include all educational uses, because of the logistical difficulties involved in the attempt to display small portions of DVDs in a classroom setting. The Librarian of Congress granted this request, but only in part. Film and video clips from DVDs are a new class of materials exempted from the prohibition against circumvention. The new educational use exemption applies only to college and university professors and higher-education film or media studies students; and as required by the statute, only to activities that are already within the bounds of "fair use."
PDF of the Final Rule regarding the Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies. 75 Fed. Reg. 43825 (July 27, 2010).
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