Copyright Office Agrees to Continue DMCA Exemptions for Smart TVs, Medical Devices

October 30, 2017

On Friday the US Copyright Office published a proposed rulemaking to renew all existing exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Activities covered by exemptions cannot be prosecuted as criminal acts under the law. Two exemptions slated for renewal are one proposed by Conservancy to allow people to install new firmware on smart TVs they own; and one advocated by Conservancy executive director Karen Sandler to allow security researchers to evaluate medical devices.

Under the DMCA, the Copyright Office is tasked with soliciting and approving proposed exemptions to the law every three years. Conservancy previously proposed and won the smart TVs exemption to allow people to install free software TV firmware like SamyGO. Sandler was part of a coalition with Harvard University’s Cyberlaw Clinic to win an exemption that allows people to passively investigate medical devices that aren’t implanted in people for potential security issues. Conservancy and the coalition petitioned for the renewal of both as part of this year’s rulemaking process.

Sandler commented, “The anticircumvention provisions of the DMCA are overbearing and continue to hamper the development of ethical technology. The exemptions process at least gives us one opportunity to protect some of the most important work being done by developers and technology users today. Three years is not much time for new development to mature. We’re glad that the Copyright Office recognizes that and continues to exempt this important work on smart TVs and medical devices from criminalization.”

Fred Jennings, attorney at Tor Ekeland, P.C. and pro bono counsel to Conservancy on the matter commented, “We’re happy to see the Office saw through the opponents’ baseless assertions about infringing use, and made good on its statement that renewals would be granted unless new reasons for opposition were shown.”

You can read Conservancy’s petition to renew the smart TV exception. Please support work like this to protect the free and open source software community by becoming a Conservancy Supporter.

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