Software Freedom Conservancy

Win for Software Freedom on TVs: Librarian of Congress Adopts DMCA Exemption for Smart TVs

Conservancy Succeeds with Exemption Petition

October 27, 2015

Software Freedom Conservancy is pleased to announce that the Librarian of Congress adopted an exemption for Smart TVs as part of its final rule Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies, published today. The rule favorably discusses Conservancy's request, dismisses the opposition's key points and sets forth an exemption for Smart TVs. This process is undertaken every three years to consider whether exemptions should be granted to the DMCA's restrictions on circumventing technical protection measures and DRM in copyrighted works. Conservancy's pro bono counsel, Tor Ekeland, P.C, prepared Conservancy's requests and responses, and partner Aaron Williamson testified on Conservancy's behalf at the public hearings.

“We're grateful to the Register of Copyrights and the Librarian of Congress for acknowledging the rights of free software developers and leaving Smart TV owners room to hack their own TVs,“ said Williamson.

Both the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Register of Copyrights, who conducts the rulemaking proceedings, supported Conservancy's request. The Register's Recommendations discuss Conservancy's request in 15 pages of detailed analysis, both of the appropriateness of the exemption and the legal analysis around fair use. The NTIA in their letter notes that “although this is the first time that an exemption for smart TVs has been requested...in many ways this class is similar to the circumvention of access controls in mobile devices for software interoperability.“

The granted exemption, while narrower than Conservancy requested, explicitly allows circumvention for enabling interoperability of computer programs on Smart TVs.

Conservancy's Executive Director, Karen Sandler, also participated in an exemption request as part of a coalition of medical device researchers, which was prepared by Andrew Sellars and the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society of Harvard Law School. The Librarian also granted an exemption responding to this request, which after a 12 month period also allows circumvention for the purpose of good faith security research.

“I'm thrilled that the Librarian of Congress has agreed, by granting these exemptions, to protect people's right to modify their TVs and explore the safety of their medical devices without fear,“ said Sandler.

Conservancy thanks Tor Ekeland and the over 1700 individuals who filed comments in support of the request.

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