BYU Suggests Reform to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
This week, Brigham Young University submitted comments to the U.S. Copyright Office in the hopes of influencing revisions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The submission marks the first time BYU has participated in the rulemaking process conducted by the Copyright Office every three years to consider exemptions to the DMCA’s prohibition on circumventing access controls placed on copyrighted works, like the encryption technologies used on DVDs and Blu-ray discs.
Copyright law provides certain educational exemptions that allow, for example, instructors and students at non-profit educational institutions to show copyrighted works in the course of face-to-face teaching activities. But under the DMCA, for instructors and students to take advantage of the educational exemptions, they have to use licensed decryption technology, such as DVD players and Blu-ray players, in order to play films in class. But, this type of technology is aging out at many universities, and licensed optical drives (aka disk drives) are getting increasingly phased out on common market models of personal computers.
In response to this technological development, BYU suggests that an exemption to the DMCA be expanded to allow nonprofit educational institutions to circumvent technological protection measures solely for uses that qualify under the educational exemptions. This would include copies of a legally purchased motion picture on a computer storage device or a server. For example, if an instructor has an old DVD of a clip he or she would like to show to a class, but there are no DVD players available, BYU suggests that the instructor should be able to use software to get a copy of the clip off of the DVD in order to show it in the classroom.
This type of storage would enable instructors to queue up multiple segments from motion pictures as part of a lesson, or add some custom instruction to the video playback to enhance its educational quality, for example. Without this ability, if instructors want to use different clips out of several full-length works, they may be required to switch out multiple DVDs or Blu-rays and navigate through menus to get to, in some cases, a ten second clip from a single disc.
Currently, the DMCA has exemptions for educational uses like the one above, but these exemptions distinguish between courses that focus on film and media studies and other types of courses. BYU argues that this distinction has no basis in copyright statute and suggests that the educational exemptions did not mean to limit motion picture playback to film courses alone.
See the entirety of BYU’s DMCA Comment here.