Digital Millennium Copyright Act -- problem examples needed

Clark, Jeff (
Mon, 8 May 2000 14:26:11 -0700 (PDT)

Now, everybody, let me explain as briefly as I can what I
mean by that.

This past week, the U.S. Copyright Office held hearings
in Washington DC to review possible concerns with the
provision of the DMCA that prohibits circumvention of
technology used to control access to copyright works in
digital form. The current legal action against several
people who posted decryption software (DeCSS) for DVDs was
taken under this very provision.

What the hearings want to determine, in short, is whether
any other "classes of work" might present the same kind of
problem--needing unauthorized circumvention of its security
in order to gain access to it--if not receiving a special
exemption. In the case of higher ed institutions, this
would presumably involve gaining access for defensible fair
use purposes. In the case of DVDs, for example, a faculty
member might want to extract short clips from them and
place these clips into QuickTime windows that would allow
for comparative playback manipulation. Without an exemption
for the format, this act would be automatically illegal
even when conducted for fair use purposes. (This depends,
of course, on a court decision that goes against the
defendants in the DVD DeCSS case which defines what they
did as an indefensible violation of access security.)

The problem is, none of us involved in the hearings on the
higher ed side could think of any format of currently
available work like DVDs that poses an analogous
problem--or even any *individual* examples. For instance,
are there image databases that would not allow you to
extract select contents to conduct manipulations that the
database itself doesn't provide for--even though you've
properly licensed the database? Remember, this would have
to be a *technologically* implemented restriction--not just
a restiction made through licensing provisions.

If you can think of anything along these lines that might
be a useful example--for *any* type of resource you deal
with--I'd be most appreciative. Such examples may be useful
in followup comments to be reviewed by the Copyright
Office, as well as news articles that try to get a handle
on what's at stake in the hearings review of this DMCA
provision; at least one reporter was present at the
DC hearings and is working on an article about them.

Thanks in advance for any ideas on examples you might be
able to share.


Jeff Clark
Media Resources (MSC 1701)
James Madison University
540-568-6770 (voice)
540-568-3405 (fax)