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.

Security Research. We filed a petition on behalf of our client, Prof. J. Alex Halderman, in partnership with the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the U.S. Technology Policy Committee (USTPC) of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), to modify the existing temporary security research exemption, which allows for good-faith security research on computer software in a variety of context, including software used for election infrastructure. If granted, this modification will provide clarity concerning researchers’ ability to engage in scholarship and criticism and fix ambiguities with the existing temporary exemption that allow abuse of Section 1201 to deter unwanted criticism or attention. These modifications will facilitate the kind of good-faith testing and research that has become an essential component of modern cybersecurity policy and infrastructure.

Accessibility Umbrella. We filed a petition for a new accessibility exemption on behalf of our client, the American Council of the Blind (ACB), in collaboration with a coalition of disability organizations and researchers, to cover circumvention of TPMs on inaccessible copyrighted works. If granted, this exemption will help people with disabilities access copyrighted works, champion technological innovation, and promote civil rights.

Disability Services. We filed a petition for a modification of the current temporary exemption for disability services professionals on behalf of our client, the Association of Transcribers and Speech-to-Text Providers, and in partnership with the Association on Higher Education and Disability¬†(AHEAD) and the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) to cover circumvention of TPMs on audiovisual works for the of purpose of adding captions and/or audio description to a motion picture to create an accessible version. This modification would cement disability services professionals’ ability to circumvent TPMs for faculty, students, and staff with disabilities, proactively remediate materials, ensure accessible materials of sufficient quality, have more clarity on the commercial availability requirement, and reuse remediated materials.

E-Book Accessibility. We filed for an expanded exemption to allow for the use of assistive technologies by people with print disabilities in connection with electronically distributed literary works (e-books). In addition to making it easier for these individuals to read e-books, our proposed changes to the current temporary exemption would help the U.S. fulfill obligations under the Marrakesh Treaty and the Chafee Amendment.

This is the fifth time that the TLPC has filed comments in the 1201 Rulemaking. Our first filing in the 2008 Rulemaking helped establish a temporary exemption for security testing and research. We have participated in every 1201 rulemaking since 2008, filing comments on behalf of organizations and individuals dedicated to security, accessibility, and other beneficial noninfringing uses.