Software Freedom Conservancy

Conservancy Applies to Renew Key DMCA Exemption

July 30, 2020

Conservancy has once again pushed for a renewal of the exemption to smart TV's, effectively allowing people to install and use free software on their own televisions. As part of a coalition with a group of researchers, our Executive Director, Karen Sandler also participated in filing the renewal application to continue the exemption for medical devices filed by the USC's Gould School of Law. Both of these exemptions must refiled in the triennial review process to ensure that interacting with the software in these devices does not become unlawful.

In 2015 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was amended to expand the exemption process within the original sweeping 1998 legislation that criminalized many types of digital tinkering and improvements. The Copyright Office is tasked with soliciting and approving proposed exemptions to the law every three years to allow people to undertake non-infringing work on various devices. Many of the activities that are proscribed by the DMCA would hamper security research, interfere with commonplace after-market modifications to users' devices or preclude trivial repairs by laypeople without clearly described exemptions. Once renewals are filed, there is a period of time for oppositions to those renewals to be filed. As in the past, Conservancy has succeeded in explaining why the exemption for smart TVs is so important and we are ready to respond to any opposition now.

Sandler says, "These filings are critical to make sure that we have access and control of the software and data we need for our basic safety. It's absurd that manufacturers use technological protection measures to prevent consumers from having control of their own devices and in particular to lockdown devices that rely on copylefted software like is the case with smart TVs."

Conservancy first filed petitions to protect researchers and users from the DMCA's overbearing anti-circumvention provisions in 2015. The smart TV and medical device exemptions were renewed again in 2017.

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Conservancy is a resourceful, non-profit organization dedicated to helping people take control of their computing experience by growing the software freedom movement, supporting community-driven alternatives to proprietary software and defending free software builders with practical initiatives. Conservancy believes that the future of software should be for everyone.

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