Section 1201 E-Book Exemption

The TLPC, along with the the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB),  the American Council of the Blind (ACB), and the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), recently recorded a win for the print-disabled community via a successful proposal for the renewal of an exemption to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

While the Section 1201 prohibits the circumvention of digital locks to unlawfully access certain copyrighted works, it also forbids the circumvention of these barriers for otherwise-lawful fair use purposes. However, Section 1201 requires the Librarian of Congress (via a recommendation from the U.S. Copyright Office) to consider three-year exemptions to the rule via a triennial rulemaking proceeding.

The 2017-2018 proceeding provided an opportunity for the TLPC, AFB, ACB, and LCA to fight for a renewal of the well-established exemption for use of assistive technologies for e-books by people who are blind, visually, impaired, or print-disabled. The Librarian of Congress approved the unopposed proposal, following the reasoning in the Acting Register’s Recommendation that the petitioners had effectively demonstrated the continuing need for the exemption. The Final Rule can be viewed here. Specifically, the exemption states:

(b) Classes of copyrighted works.
Pursuant to the authority set forth in 17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1)(C) and (D), and upon the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, the Librarian has determined that the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that effectively control access to copyrighted works set forth in 17 U.S.C. 1201(a)(1)(A) shall not apply to persons who engage in noninfringing uses of the following classes of copyrighted works:

. . .

(3) Literary works, distributed electronically, that are protected by technological measures that either prevent the enabling of read-aloud functionality or interfere with screen readers or other applications or assistive technologies:

(i) When a copy of such a work is lawfully obtained by a blind or other person with a disability, as such a person is defined in 17 U.S.C. 121; provided, however, that the rights owner is remunerated, as appropriate, for the price of the mainstream copy of the work as made available to the general public through customary channels; or

(ii) When such work is a nondramatic literary work, lawfully obtained and used by an authorized entity pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 121.