Victory! U.S. legalizes more jailbreaking, Blu-ray rips, car hacks, and...

But the swan-like LoC will turn again in three years
[You're fired -Ed.]

The U.S. Library of Congress has issued another list of legal things to do with your own property. As prescribed in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it's the Librarian's job to weigh up the evidence and graciously permit us to do certain things with stuff we already own. How kind.

Yes, it's DMCA Triennial time again: Every three years, the LoC carefully deliberates on rules for exemptions from the controversial copyright law.

This time, it's wider jailbreaking, HD ripping, fiddling with cars, and reviving zombie games (that's online games that are undead, not games about the undead, K?)

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers feel like they're at the world's end.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.

Kicking off today's roundup is Thomas "crazy-like-a" Fox-Brewster:

There was a big win for the digital rights community today.

Prior to today’s decision by the Librarian of Congress, car manufacturers...had attempted to block an the Digital Millennium Copyright Act...that would allow anyone to play with the code that ran on vehicles they’d bought.

A separate decision to renew a previous exemption for jailbreaking iPhones and other mobile devices was also granted.

[And] computer game enthusiasts [can now] modify their games to continue playing them even after support was killed off.

One of the campaigners for the [car] exemption...raised concerns [that] the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act...could still be used to aggressively pursue good-guy hackers, and that the exemptions only lasted three years; a “ridiculous system”, said [the] EFF.

It seems the road to digital freedom is a long, winding one.  MORE

Alina Selyuku considers all the things:

It's an obscure provision of a relatively obscure law, overseen, rather unpredictably, by the Librarian of Congress.

Every three years, the Library's Copyright Office decides which computer programs should be exempt from that provision, and on Tuesday it issued a lengthy list.

The prohibitions on tinkering with car software have been in the news lately. [For example] researchers pushing for more freedom to learn more about the code inside our cars in the fallout of the Volkswagen software-rigging scandal. ... Numerous auto groups...opposed the new exemption. And a bit ironically, part of their argument was that [it] would allow owners to skirt vehicle emissions regulations — precisely what Volkswagen did.  MORE

The EFF hurrah tag-team is Parker Higgins, Mitch Stoltz, Kit Walsh and Corynne McSherry:

The Librarian of Congress has granted much of what EFF asked for over the course of months of extensive briefs and hearings...subject to some important caveats.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act's Section a fundamentally flawed law that forbids users from breaking DRM, even if the purpose is...lawful. ... The law allows users to request exemptions for...lawful uses—but it doesn’t make it easy. [It] places a heavy burden on EFF and the many other requesters who take part. [It] is long past due for reform or removal.

The Librarian recognized the need for vehicle owners to circumvent access restrictions in order to repair, modify, and tinker.

The Librarian renewed the existing exemption for jailbreaking smartphones [and] expanded the exemption to cover “portable all-purpose mobile computing devices.”

The Librarian granted part of EFF’s new proposal for an exemption to preserve abandoned video games.

The Librarian effectively renewed the existing exemption for noncommercial remix videos, and expanded it to cover circumvention of DRM on Blu-Ray discs.

As the White House looks for the next Librarian...we hope to get a candidate who the interest of the public's access to information.  MORE

As Mike Masnick explains, "It's a hot mess":

[This is] the ridiculous process known as the triennial review. ... The Library of Congress tried to please everyone and will likely end up pleasing no one.

Basically, [the DMCA] says that if you put a digital lock on something, even if the lock is...for something totally unrelated to copyright...such as blocking competition, you can use copyright law to stop anyone from getting around it. [So] the Library of Congress climbs a mountain, thinks on it for a bit, and comes down...declaring what is legal and what is not. It's an insane process.

The Library of Congress seemed to think it's perfectly fine to weigh outside factors...even though it's supposed to be judging things entirely based on the copyright issues. So, for example, with this...exemption on car repair and notes that "serious safety and environmental issues... weigh against an exemption." ... We should not be using copyright law to regulate other things. We already have safety and environmental laws. [This] is patently ridiculous.

This isn't how law should be made, and it's unclear why this is still allowed.  MORE

So how did we get here? Kerry Maeve Sheehan considers the unintended consequences:

Unfortunately, the whole process for determining these exemptions is broken, arduous, and unpredictable. ... The DMCA’s lawmakers may have unleashed an administrative nightmare.

By 1998, modern technology had outpaced the development of copyright law. ... So, lawmakers tried to create a safeguard. [But they] bungled the formula and released an army of obstructive bureaucratic processes.

In the 17 years since the law was passed, [the DMCA has] been subject to abuse by companies that want to restrict consumer choice, discourage safety and security research, and inhibit market competition.

Our technology...including our cars, cellphones, and e-books, potentially contains digital locks, “technological protection measures” that keep us from using [it] in the ways that work best for us and that prevent us from new and challenging circumstances.  MORE

But CanadianMacFan seems slightly cynical:

What the Copyright Office giveth...TPP will take away.  MORE

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don't have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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