Public Floods Copyright Office With Fair Use Requests

Feb 21, 2003

Roy Mark

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says it helped 245 consumers submit comments to the Librarian of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office requesting protection for certain ordinary uses of CDs and DVDs. The consumer comments support the EFF's Dec. 18 request to the government to grant four exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in order to permit bypassing of certain technological protection measures for copyrighted works.

Currently, the DMCA prevents users from making the following four uses of some digital media: listening to copy-protected music CDs on certain stereos and personal computers; viewing foreign movies on DVDs on U.S. players due to region-coding restrictions; skipping through commercials on some movie DVDs; and viewing and making fair uses of movies that are in the public domain and released on encrypted DVDs.

"The large number of comments reflects consumers' growing concerns about the DMCA and the very real impact that the law has on their lives," said EFF Staff Attorney Gwen Hinze.

The consumer comments described their difficulties with the DMCA's ban on bypassing technological locks on copy-protected music CDs and movies released on DVD:

* 55 comments described problems people had experienced with copy-protected CDs, ranging from inability to play music that they had purchased to complete computer operating system crashes requiring major computer repair.

* 130 comments focused on problems playing foreign movies on region-coded DVDs. One person originally from Denmark expressed frustration at not being able to play movies his mother gave him. Others discussed special interest works, such as anime, and foreign movies that are only available outside of the U.S., but unplayable on U.S. DVD players.

* Many parents wrote comments describing their concerns about unskippable commercials and promotional material in a number of Disney movies released on DVD.

* Several people also expressed frustration about the limited use that could be made of particular public domain movies, such as Charlie Chaplin's Movie Marathon, which was released on a CSS-encrypted DVD.

"These EFF-inspired comments alone count for more than the total number of comments the Copyright Office received during the previous rulemaking in 2000," added EFF activist Ren Bucholz. "We're hopeful that the Copyright Office will listen to the growing public voice demanding reasonable uses of their own CDs and DVDs."


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