TLPC Advocates Before the FCC for Equal Access to Communications and Video Programming

(by Dakotah Hamilton, TLPC Student Attorney)

On June 7th, the TLPC and the Communications and Technology Law Clinic (CTLC) at Georgetown Law filed a comment on behalf of 22 accessibility advocacy and research organizations, including TLPC and CTLC client Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI), in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s public notice to revisit many of its rules under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The comment, drafted by Professor Blake E. Reid, TLPC Director, and Professor Laura Moy, CTLC Director, with assistance from TLPC student attorneys Dakotah Hamilton, Rachel Hersch, and Scott Goodstein and CTLC staff attorney Michael Rosenbloom and student attorney Ellen Gardiner, comprehensively reviewed the past decade of FCC proceedings implementing the CVAA as well as some dating back to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, spanning more than two dozen dockets.

The comment identifies numorous specific priorities the FCC should consider for the accessibility of video programming, communications, and hearing device accessibility, including bolstering the availability of interpretation and captioning for video conferencing platforms and expanding captioning requirements for video distributed online. The comment also calls for dedicated inquiries into accessibility barriers facing people who are deaf or hard of hearing and have multiple disabilities, older people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and people who are deaf or hard of hearing and living on rural or tribal lands or in U.S. territories. The comment also urges the Commission to emphasize supervised multistakeholderism, centering the civil rights of people with disabilities, vigorous enforcement, and reporting to Congress.

TLPC Advocates for Expansion of Video Accessibility Exemption to Section 1201 of the DMCA

(by Scott Goodstein, Colorado Law 3L)

On April 5, 2021, the TLPC—on behalf of the Association of Transcribers and Speech-to-Text Providers (ATSP), along with ATSP’s past president Jason Kapcala and Jonathan Band of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), presented at the Eighth Triennial Section 1201 Rulemaking Hearing in support of the Proposed Class 3 exemption to the anti-circumvention provisions of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Section 1201 prohibits users from circumventing technological protective measures (TPMs) that control access to copyrighted works, but allows them to apply for and receive temporary exemptions for a variety of noninfringing uses. The petition for the Proposed Class 3 exemption was filed on behalf of ATSP and in partnership with the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD) and the LCA.

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TLPC Advocates for Expansion of E-Book Accessibility Exemption to Section 1201 of the DMCA

On April 5, 2021, the TLPC, on behalf of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and a coalition of other organizations, appeared at a hearing before the U.S. Copyright Office to urge expansion of an existing exemption from the the anticircumvention measures of Section of 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that allows the remediation of e-books into accessible formats. The expansions were designed to help the U.S. fulfill its obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. The public hearing was one of the final stages in the eighth triennial rulemaking proceeding under Section 1201, which provides that the Librarian of Congress, upon the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, may adopt temporary exemptions to section 1201’s prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works.

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TLPC Advocates for Broad Accessibility Exemption to Section 1201 of the DMCA

(by Rachel Hersch, Colorado Law 2L)

On April 5, 2021, the TLPC, on behalf of its client the American Council for the Blind (ACB), and joined by a broad coalition of disability organizations, appeared at a hearing before the Copyright Office to urge adoption of a broad accessibility exemption from the anti-circumvention provisions of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The proposed exemption would remove roadblocks to access to digital works for people with disabilities. TPMs limit people with disabilities’ access to digital works because TPMs often block assistive technology. For example, a person may be prevented from watching a lawfully acquired video because the video’s TPMs block color-shifting technology, which the person needs to be able to watch the video. The proposed exemption would allow that person to lawfully circumvent this TPM in order to utilize the assistive color-shifting technology.

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TLPC Advocates for Expansion of Security Research Exemption to Section 1201 of the DMCA

(by Wilson D. Scarbeary, Colorado Law 3L)

Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prohibits the circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs) that control access to copyrighted works. Every three years, the Copyright Office holds a rulemaking to consider temporary exemptions to this prohibition on circumvention of TPMs for noninfringing activities such as accessibility, repair, and security research.

Security research has become a critical aspect of our modern cybersecurity architecture, and renewing and expanding this exemption is critical to enable security research into devices ranging from voting machines to personal devices. The TLPC took part in the development of an early temporary exemption for security research in 2008, and has participated in each triennial review since then. This cycle, the TLPC worked on behalf of our client, Professor J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan, along with the Center for Democracy and Technology and the United States Technology Policy Committee of the Association of Computing Machinery.

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TLPC Releases White Paper for EFF Analyzing Municipal Rights of Way Franchising Authority in New York

(by Bethany Reece, Student Attorney)

Today the TLPC is releasing a white paper, prepared on behalf of and in collaboration with, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which chronicles New York’s experience in the early 2000s with the telecommunications lobby’s efforts to replace historic municipal telecom franchising regimes with a centralized state franchising system. Given the increased leverage that localized franchising authority can afford to municipalities, this paper considers whether New York’s choices with respect to its regulatory regime may influence its outcomes with respect to achieving its FiOS buildout objectives, economic parity of high-speed broadband access across areas of varying income strata, and enforcing agreements with telecommunications providers.

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TLPC Files Comments in the Eighth Section 1201 Triennial Review

Today, the TLPC filed a series of comments in the Copyright Office’s Eighth Triennial Review of exemptions from the anticircumvention measures of Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Section 1201 prohibits the circumvention of technological protective measures (TPMs) that control access to copyrighted works, but allows stakeholders to apply for and receive broader temporary exemptions for a variety of noninfringing uses. The TLPC filed comments on four exemptions, one focused on security research and the other three on various accessibility purposes.

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TLPC Files Comments on Behalf of Disability Rights Advocates to Enforce Carceral Communications Accessibility

TLPC student attorneys Caitlin League, Michael Obregon, and Brandon Ward worked over the last month with a coalition of incarcerated deaf/disabled people and their advocates, consumer groups, including our client, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI), and accessibility researchers to file comments in response to a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) soliciting input on rates charged to incarcerated people for the use of telecommunication devices. Carceral facilities, including prisons and jails, have long denied incarcerated people with communications disabilities access to functionally equivalent communications services and equipment and charged exorbitant rates to maintain crucial connections between incarcerated people and their families, loved ones, and legal representatives.

Because the transition of the phone system from analog to Internet Protocol networks has largely broken compatibility with teletypewriters (TTYs), many carceral facilities essentially provide no accessible services or equipment. Among other remedies, the comments urge the FCC to require that inmate calling services (ICS) facilitate the provision of accessible services, including video relay service and Internet Protocol Captioned Telephone Service (IP CTS) and equipment, including videophones and captioned telephones, to carceral facilities.

TLPC Partners with CU Engineering, Coalition of Satellite Researchers to Advocate for Continued Access to Space

(by Michael Obregon, Colorado Law 2L)

The Technology Law and Policy Clinic at Colorado Law continued its work with Dr. Scott Palo and CU Engineering to influence national policy related to the regulation of small satellites by the Federal Communications Commission. The TLPC filed comments and reply comments on behalf of a coalition of researchers to argue for improvements to the FCC’s orbital debris rulemaking, which raises the possibility of legally and financially burdensome requirements on missions that could prevent academic researchers from participating in satellite-based research.

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TLPC Partners with CU Criminal Immigration Clinic to Prepare Report on Protecting Colorado DMV Photos, ICE, and Facial Recognition Tech

(by Conor May, Colorado Law 2L)

This year the TLPC and Colorado Criminal Immigration clinic looked at ways for the State of Colorado to prevent DMV records from being exploited by federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). The clinics prepared a report to the Governor’s Office and Colorado DMV that highlights potential vulnerabilities and proposes policies to address those vulnerabilities.

The clinics’ report was sent to the Governor’s Office in March. On May 20th, Governor Polis issued a guidance document to all Colorado executive branch departments and agencies. This guidance on data privacy goes a long way toward addressing the vulernabilities raised in the clinics’ report, by placing restrictions on when state agencies can respond to requests for Personal Identifying Information (PII), which includes licenses and other DMV information.

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