DMCA exemption process

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention provisions (17 U.S.C. § 1201) prohibit the circumvention of technological protection measures that control access to copyrighted works—i.e., they prohibit users from breaking DRM, in just about any form. As has been widely documented, this restrictive law allows copyright owners to prevent all kinds of legitimate use of copyrighted works, including uses that are not within the scope of the copyright owner's rights (like installing licensed third party applications on mobile phones and other computing devices) and others that are plainly protected as fair use (like sampling video for purposes of commentary).

The DMCA authorizes the Library of Congress to hold hearings every three years to identify areas where the anticircumvention provisions are detrimentally affecting lawful use and to make exemptions from the law in those cases. In the past, the Librarian has granted exemptions to allow, among other things, circumvention of DVDs' Content Scrambling System to enable the use of short portions for commentary and criticism, jailbreaking mobile phones to enable the installation of unapproved applications, and circumventing e-book DRM in order to enable text-to-speech and other assistive technologies.

For the 2012 hearings, the Software Freedom Law Center proposed an exemption for "Computer programs that enable the installation and execution of lawfully obtained software on a personal computing device, where circumvention is performed by or at the request of the device's owner." The purpose of this exemption is to enable owners of all kinds of personal computers—not only smartphones, tablets, and e-book readers, but all personal computing devices—to install the applications and the operating systems of their choice on those devices. This page provides information related to SFLC's proposed exemption.

Documents and Publications

  • SFLC's initial proposal (December 1, 2011)
  • Comments of the Business Software Alliance, Recording Industry Association of America, Motion Picture Association of America, et al. responding to SFLC's proposal (February 11, 2012)
  • SFLC's reply to the content industry associations' comments (March 2, 2012)

News & Blog Posts