Tag Archives: 1201

Impression Products v. Lexmark International

On May 30, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Impression Products v. Lexmark International, a case involving patent exhaustion. By an 7-1 margin, the Court found that a patent holder cannot enforce contractual restrictions on downstream sales through a patent infringement case and that international exhaustion applies to patents, just as the Court confirmed international exhaustion to apply to copyright in Kirtsaeng v. Wiley.

Lexmark essentially tried to restrict the refill of its cartridges by third parties by selling cartridges that restricted further use or resale. Lexmark then tried to enforce these restrictions through patent infringement cases against the downstream purchasers/third party resellers. The Court ultimately found that while Lexmark could potentially bring a breach of contract case against the initial purchasers for violating these restrictions, it could not bring a patent infringement suit to assert these claims. Relying on long-standing precedent, the majority opinion (authored by Chief Justice Roberts) notes “even when a patentee sells an item under an express restriction, the patentee does not retain patent rights in that product.”

Additionally, Lexmark asserted that exhaustion did not apply to cartridges sold abroad. The Court “conclude[s] that a patentee’s decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose or the location of the sale.” The Court notes that the question of the first sale doctrine came up in the context of copyright in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, which ruled that the first sale of a copyrighted product exhausts the rights whether made in the United States or abroad. The majority opinion also points out that while differential pricing may occur, this fact has no bearing on patent exhaustion: “The patentee may not be able to command the same amount for its products abroad as it does in the United States.  But the Patent Act does not guarantee a particular price, much less the price from selling to American consumers.”

One of the more interesting passages in the majority’s opinion is an illustration on the dangers that would occur without exhaustion:

Take a shop that restores and sells used cars. The business works because the shop can rest assured that, so long as those bringing in the cars own them, the shop is free to repair and resell those vehicles. That smooth flow of commerce would sputter if companies that make the thousands of parts that go into a vehicle could keep their patent rights after the first sale.  Those companies might, for instance, restrict resale rights and sue the shop owner for patent infringement. And even if they refrained from imposing such restrictions, the very threat of patent liability would force the shop to invest in efforts to protect itself from hidden lawsuits.  Either way, extending the patent rights beyond the first sale would clog the channels of commerce, with little benefit from the extra control that the patentees retain.  And advances in technology, along with increasingly complex supply chains, magnify the problem.

The use of auto repair as an example of the problems created through overzealous claims of intellectual property protection is compelling given the issues of embedded software in automobiles and anti-circumvention measures. With a growing number of vehicles containing embedded software, some rightholders are claiming that purchasers of these vehicles should not be free to modify, repair or tinker with these items. An article in Wired in 2015 highlighted the fact that John Deere (and other automakers) opposed an exemption to allow circumvention of technological protection measures in order to repair purchased vehicles during the DMCA 10201’s triennial exemption process.

Ultimately, exhaustion of copyright and patent rights serves a critical purpose in ensuring that purchasers can freely repair, re-sell, and lend legitimately purchased items just as they would for goods that are not encumbered by intellectual property rights.

LCA Submits Comments on Section 1201 to the Copyright Office

*This post is written by Caile Morris, ARL Law and Policy Fellow*

The Copyright Office published a notice of inquiry on December 29, 2015, announcing a public study to “assess the operation of section 1201 of title 17, United States Code, including the triennial rulemaking process to adopt exemptions to the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works.” ARL, along with the American Library Association and the Association of College and Research Libraries, submitted comments and reply comments through the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA). Both the comments and reply comments expanded on section 1201’s fatal flaw: that the language of the statute has the potential to prohibit circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs) for lawful purposes.

Comments

On March 3, 2016, LCA filed comments on section 1201 in response to the Copyright Office’s notice of inquiry. The core message is that the failing of 1201 is its potential to prohibit not just unlawful infringing activities, but also circumvention for lawful purposes. The comments explore section 1201 prior to enactment, efforts to amend 1201 following enactment, the circuit split that has resulted from the flawed language, and recommendations for how 1201 might be amended.

LCA points out the difficulties in applying 1201, as evidenced by the current circuit split. Critics have noted that 1201 could chill legitimate purposes, such as research into computer security and prevent lawful copying under the fair use doctrine or library exception codified in the Copyright Act, and generally promote anti-competitive effects. As LCA’s comments point out,

These critics’ worst fears about the anti-competitive effect of the statute seemed to be validated when two dominant companies attempted to use section 1201 to threaten competitors in aftermarkets. The [Federal Circuit’s] Chamberlain case involved universal transmitters for garage door openers, while the [Sixth Circuit’s] Lexmark case involved toner cartridges for printers. Fortunately, the judges in these cases interpreted section 1201 in a manner that prevented its anti-competitive use. The Ninth Circuit’s decision in MDY v. Blizzard, however, has challenged this interpretation.

The LCA comments address the triennial rulemaking to adopt temporary exemptions to section 1201(a)(1)’s prohibition on circumvention as “an exercise in legal theatre” because the rulemaking only applies to the prohibition against circumvention of TPMs, but not to the prohibition of the development and distribution of circumvention tools. This, in effect, makes a legally permitted activity difficult to carry out, as the tools necessary to do so are potentially illegal to acquire. Other burdens of the process include high costs in time and money, lack of representation for the average member of the public, the language of the exemptions becoming increasingly convoluted, and having to petition for previously granted exemptions every three years de novo.

LCA’s comments recommend several possible amendments to section 1201 in order to resolve the flaws. For example, LCA endorses the approach of the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 which attaches liability to circumvention only if infringement is enabled. In the alternative, additional permanent exceptions should be enacted for educational uses, the print disabled, and embedded software. Additionally, the rulemaking should apply not only to section 1201(a)(1), but also to sections 1201(a)(2) and (b). LCA also recommends that final rulemaking authority be shifted to the Assistant Secretary of Communications and Information of the Department of Commerce, because that office has more expertise in evaluating adverse effects of a circumvention prohibition. Furthermore, an opponent of a previously granted exemption should bear the burden of demonstrating why the exemption should not be renewed or modified, which is under the purview of the Copyright Office to change; nothing in the language of section 1201 dictates that review of the triennial rulemakings should be de novo. Finally, the language of the exemptions should be broader and simpler, promoting easier application of the exemptions by the public.

Reply Comments

On April 1, 2016, LCA submitted reply comments primarily responding to the comments of other participants in the notice of inquiry, while reiterating the importance of amending the central flaw of section 1201.

The reply comments identify a “leap of logic” by many content and rights holders industries comments that TPMs would fail but for the legal prohibitions on their circumvention and the creation and distribution of circumvention tools. In particular, the joint comments of the Association of American Publishers, the Motion Picture Association of American, and the Recording Industry Association of America argues that “the protections of Chapter 12 have enabled an enormous variety of flexible, legitimate digital business models to emerge and thrive….” In reply, LCA points out, “if TPMS are so weak that they must be bolstered by legal protections, then why employ TPMs in the first place?” Just because TPMs are important for a business model does not diminish their effectiveness absent legal protection. In addition, there is no real evidence that legal protection of TPMs has contributed to how effective they are. LCA argues that even if there is positive impact from section 1201 as currently written, that the negative impact far outweighs the positive, and revision is justified.

Going forward, the Copyright Office will hold public roundtables to continue its study of section 1201 on May 19 & 20, 2016 in Washington, DC, and May 25 & 26, 2016 in San Francisco, CA. Members of the public are invited to participate, and must submit a request form by April 18, 2016.

Fair Use in 2015 and A Look Ahead at 2016

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation. Today’s topic is “Fair Use Rights: For copyright to achieve its purpose of encouraging creativity and innovation, it must preserve and promote ample breathing space for unexpected and innovative uses.”

Fair use is a critical right and the most important limitation on the rights of the copyright holder. It permits the use of copyrighted material without permission from the rightholder under certain circumstances and has been called the “safety valve” of U.S. copyright law. Fair use is a broad and flexible doctrine that is responsive to change and can accommodate new technologies and developments.  Notably, fair use is relied upon by everyone, including both users of copyrighted content as well as rights holders. This critical doctrine provides essential balance

Below are five news highlights on fair use from 2015 as well as my five favorite fair use resources created in 2015 (created for Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week 2015).

Five Fair Use Highlights from 2015:

  1. Second Circuit Affirms Fair Use in Google Books Case.  In October 2015, the Second Circuit released its unanimous opinion, authored by Judge Leval, affirming the lower court’s fair use decision in Authors Guild v. Google, also known as the “Google Books” case.  The Second Circuit held that Google’s copying of books and display of snippets in a search index is transformative and a fair use.  This search and snippet function of Google Books allows for important research, including through text-and-data mining to allow researchers to conduct research that would not be possible without the large searchable database created by Google. Additionally, the Second Circuit found that Google’s provision of digital copies to its partner libraries that submitted the particular work is not an infringement.  This digitization of certain works from library collections demonstrates an important partnership, which has allowed libraries to make fair uses of these copies, including to provide access for those who are visually impaired.
  2. Ninth Circuit Rules Fair Use Must Be Considered Before DMCA Takedown Notices Sent.  In September 2015, the Ninth Circuit ruled in Lenz v. Universal Music, also known as the “Dancing Baby” case that “copyright holders must consider fair use before sending a takedown notification, and that failure to do so raises triable issues as to whether the copyright holder formed a subjective good faith belief that the use was not authorized by law.”  In its reasoning, the Ninth Circuit confirmed that fair use is a right: “Fair use is not just excused by the law, it is wholly authorized by the law . . . The statute explains that the fair use of a copyrighted work is permissible because it is a non-infringing use.”
  3. YouTube Announces It Will Defend Some Creators’ Fair Use Claims.  In November 2015, YouTube announced that it will protect “some of the best examples of fair use on YouTube” by defending some creators in copyright litigation.  YouTube pledged to indemnify some of its creators whose fair use videos are subject to takedown notices for up to $1 million in legal costs if the takedown results in a copyright infringement lawsuit. This announcement is significant given that fair use provides essential balance to the copyright system, allowing for transformative uses including parody, commentary, criticism and innovation and videos posted to YouTube often rely on this important doctrine.
  4. Final Text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement Includes Language on Limitations and Exceptions.  In October 2015, the twelve negotiating parties (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam) announced agreement on the TPP, concluding five years of negotiations.  Although the final copyright provisions of the TPP had mixed results and ARL was disappointed by a number of the provisions and the lack of transparency during the negotiations, one of the positive aspects of the agreement was the inclusion and improvements in the final text on limitations and exceptions. The final text included language based off part of the United States’ fair use provision, with an addition for those with print disabilities, requiring “due consideration to legitimate purposes such as, but not limited to: criticism; comment; news reporting; teaching, scholarship, research, and other similar purposes; and facilitating access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.”  The text confirms that the exceptions can apply “in the digital environment” as well as to uses with “commercial aspects.”  Inclusion of this language is significant.  While the final language could have been strengthened further, the final text still provides an obligation for parties to seek a balance and can be used as a basis for stronger language in future agreements.  As noted by Jonathan Band in a paper exploring the evolution of the limitations and exceptions over the course of the TPP negotiations, “The incorporation of the non-exclusive list of legitimate purposes from 17 U.S.C. § 107 provides TPP countries a powerful basis for concluding that this balance is best achieved through the adoption of an open-ended flexible exception like fair use.”
  5. Authors Guild and HathiTrust settle last remaining issue (preservation); Second Circuit decision strongly affirming fair use stands.  While the Second Circuit’s decision in the HathiTrust case was released in June 2014, the court did not resolve the issue of preservation, sending that issue back to the district court.  In January 2015, the parties entered a settlement on the sole issue remaining issue, ending the litigation in a victory for HathiTrust and fair use.  The Second Circuit’s decision found that creation of a full-text search database and providing access to the print disabled constituted fair use.  In January 2015, however, the defendant libraries stipulated that they complied with Section 108(c) of the Copyright Act and agreed that for a period of five years, if they do not comply with the stipulation, it will notify the Authors Guild, “which, although not a Remaining Plaintiff in this Action, will accept notice.”  Authors Guild released a statement after the settlement, noting that it would not seek an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Five Great Fair Use Resources from 2015:

  1. Fair Use Fundamentals Infographic.  In celebration of Fair Use Week 2015, ARL created this infographic explaining that fair use is a right, is vitally important, is for everybody and is everywhere.
  2. A Day in the Life of a Legislative Assistant.  Jonathan Band authored this document, giving a sample day in the life of a legislative assistant.  This sample day shows just how often fair use is relied upon on a daily basis.
  3. Video: Fair Use and Technology.  Fred von Lohmann explains how fair use is essential to every day technology and how we encounter it on a daily basis.
  4. Podcast: Fair Use Protects Culture From Copyright, Not the Other Way Around.  TechDirt created a great podcast devoted to the important doctrine of fair use and how it provides an essential balance to the copyright system.
  5. 12 Fair Use Myths and Facts.  For Fair Use Week 2015, ARL also produced a “Myths and Facts” document on fair use, covering twelve myths about what fair use is and how it can be used.

So what’s next for fair use in 2016?

First, a reminder that Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week 2016 is quickly approaching and will take place from February 22-26, 2016.  A number of organizations and institutions are already planning to participate and have great events planned.  ARL will be creating a new infographic, hosting blog posts, and posting new videos on fair use.  For more information on how to participate or to see the great resources from last year’s celebration, visit the Fair Use Week website.

Additionally, the Authors Guild’s Google Books case may not be over as the Authors Guild filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court on December 31, 2015.  However, the Authors Guild’s petition does not appear to be a particular strong one.  Despite the Authors Guild’s claims that there is a circuit split on the meaning of transformativeness, it is not clear that the six circuits cited have actually split on the issue as the facts of the cases differ significantly.  Furthermore, the argument that the Second Circuit has shifted to a one-factor test is clearly unsupported by the court’s October decision; the Second Circuit carefully analyzes all four factors.

In fact, Professor Jane Ginsburg noted in her article, Google Books and Fair Use: From Implausible to Inevitable? that the Google Books decision is probably not worthy of Supreme Court review.  She stated that the decision “probably surprised no one” and that “courts came to interpret Campbell’s reference to ‘something new, with a further purpose’ to encompass copying that does not add ‘new expression,’ so long as the copying gives the prior work ‘new meaning.’  Fair use cases began to drift from ‘transformative work’ to ‘transformative purpose,’ in the latter instance, copying of an entire work, without creating a new work, could be excused, particularly if the court perceived a sufficient public benefit in the appropriation.” Ginsburg acknowledges that courts have interpreted transformativeness to include a transformative purpose and does not cite any circuit split on this issue.  She also pointed out that the Second Circuit’s opinion was restrained and did not expand the fair use doctrine.  If the Supreme Court declines to hear the Google Books case, the Second Circuit’s decision will stand.

Additionally, as noted yesterday, the Copyright Office has issued a notice of a study the 1201 rulemaking process which creates exemptions on a three-year cycle to allow for circumvention of technological protection measures.  The exemptions requested during each cycle represent non-infringing uses, such as those that would operate under fair use in the analog world (that is, without the digital locks placed on digital copies).  The notice of inquiry includes a number of questions that are highly relevant to fair use.  For example:

1. Please provide any insights or observations regarding the role and effectiveness of the prohibition on circumvention of technological measures in section 1201(a).

[. . .]

3. Should section 1201 be adjusted to provide for presumptive renewal of previously granted exemptions—for example, when there is no meaningful opposition to renewal—or otherwise be modified to streamline the process of continuing an existing exemption? If so, how?

[. . .]

8. Please assess whether the existing categories of permanent exemptions are necessary, relevant, and/or sufficient. How do the permanent exemptions affect the current state of reverse engineering, encryption research, and security testing? How do the permanent exemptions affect the activities of libraries, archives, and educational institutions? How might the existing permanent exemptions be amended to better facilitate such activities?

9. Please assess whether there are other permanent exemption categories that Congress should consider establishing—for example, to facilitate access to literary works by print-disabled persons?

 

While these are important questions and it is good to see that the Copyright Office is at least considering the idea of permanent exemptions and a streamlined process, these questions highlight the fundamental flaw of the 1201 rulemaking process.  As noted by the Library Copyright Alliance’s statement for the Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on 1201 in September 2014:

The fact that every three years the blind need to expend scarce resources to petition the Librarian of Congress to renew their exemption—or that libraries and educators have to seek renewal of the film clip exemption every three years—demonstrates the fundamental flaw in section 1201. That flaw is that section 1201 could be interpreted to prohibit the circumvention of a technological protection measure even for the purpose of engaging in a lawful use of a work. Congress should adopt the approach proposed by the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 and its predecessors, attaching liability to circumvention only if it enables infringement.

Fair use should apply equally in the digital world and technological protection measures should not be used to limit the fair use right.  The fact that every three years, proponents of exemptions must use a great deal of time and resources to seek renewal of or a grant of exemptions to anti-circumvention rules to exercise the fair use rights is problematic and inefficient.

 

1201 Rulemaking for a New Era?

We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation. Today’s topic is “You Bought It, You Own It: Copyright policy should foster the freedom to truly own your stuff: to tinker with it, repair it, reuse it, recycle it, read or watch or launch it on any device, lend it, and then give it away (or re-sell it) when you’re done.”

*Today’s post is brought to you by guest blogger Caile Morris, ARL Law and Policy Fellow*

Every three years, the Copyright Office facilitates a rulemaking process, which considers potential exceptions to the Section 1201 prohibition of circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs) under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA). During this process, the Register of Copyrights conducts the rulemaking proceeding and consults with the National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA), making a final recommendation to the Librarian of Congress. In plain terms, this means the Copyright Office considers petitions for exemptions that allow for things like professors using video clips from Blu-Ray discs when teaching their classes, or for the print-disabled to make e-books accessible. The Office is currently undertaking a study to consider the practical application of Section 1201, including the triennial rulemaking process, to see what improvements might be made.

In the largest proceeding thus far, the 2015 Triennial Rulemaking also ranged quite far from the area of copyright, considering matters that would fit better at proceedings run by agencies like the Department of Transportation or the Environmental Protection Agency. For example, one class of works proposed for an exemption included computer programs that control motorized land vehicles, including those in cars, which if adopted would allow owners to circumvent TPMs in order to make repairs or modifications to those programs. The copyright implications of circumventing the TPMs in this software, while present, pales in comparison to implications for auto manufacturers, the Department of Transportation, and most importantly the users attempting to “tinker” with their lawfully-purchased vehicles.

The proceeding also continues to perpetuate the fatal flaw in Section 1201 – exemptions are requested for uses that would all be considered non-infringing if these same copyrighted works were analog and did not have TPMs.  ARL, as part of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), filed comments for the record at a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in September 2014 expanding on this issue explaining “that flaw is that section 1201 could be interpreted to prohibit the circumvention of a technological protection measure even for the purpose of engaging in a lawful use of a work.” LCA has also filed petitions in numerous triennial rulemakings, and expounded the absurdities of the process:

Although the section 1201 rulemaking process is legal theatre, the cost of admission is extremely high, particularly for nonprofit organizations. An entity seeking an exemption must: 1) assemble the evidence to support an exemption; 2) prepare a written request that includes the text of the proposed exemption, an argument in favor of the exemption, and a recitation of the relevant facts; 3) prepare a written reply to oppositions to the request; 4) participate in a hearing in Washington D.C.; and 5) prepare a written response to the Copyright Office’s follow-up questions. From start to finish, the process can take more than a year.

In addition to being burdensome, expensive, long and often frustrating, this process is often confusing to the public that it is meant to benefit. The language of the exemptions that result from each rulemaking has become incredibly intricate and detailed. The beneficiaries of these exemptions may not be sure they are using the exemptions correctly, and thus would not be able to put stock in the legality of their activities. So much for “you bought it, you own it” victories won in this arena being easily applicable in the real world.

The Section 1201 study being undertaken by the Copyright Office seeks to learn more about the effectiveness of the role of the anti-trafficking provisions, permanent exemptions, and the requirements of the triennial rulemakings themselves, to name a few issues.   In particular, the Office asks for written comments regarding such questions as “[h]ow should section 1201 accommodate interests that are outside of core copyright concerns . . .?,” and “. . .[h]ow do the permanent exemptions affect the activities of libraries, archives, and educational institutions? How might the existing permanent exemptions be amended to better facilitate such activities?”

A question from the Copyright Office of particular interest to the library community asks commenters to “assess whether there are other permanent exemption categories that Congress should consider establishing – for example to facilitate access to literary works by print-disabled persons?” This particular exemption has been granted in every rulemaking* since 2003, and in the 2015 Rulemaking, this petition was met without opposition. This is precisely the kind of exemption that should not have to go through this arduous process anew every three years.

Indeed, in Author’s Guild, Inc. v. HathiTrust, the Second Circuit confirmed that creating a copy of a copyrighted work for the convenience of a blind person is fair use, regardless of other accommodations found under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Chafee Amendment to the Copyright Act, found at 17 U.S.C. § 121:

The House Committee Report that accompanied codification of the fair use doctrine in the Copyright Act of 1976 expressly stated that making copies accessible “for the use of blind persons” posed a “special instance illustrating the application of the fair use doctrine” . . . . The Committee noted that “special [blind-accessible formats] . . . are not usually made by the publishers for commercial distribution” . . . . We believe this guidance supports a finding of fair use in the unique circumstances presented by print-disabled readers.

As LCA noted, “[t]he fact that every three years the blind need to expend scarce resources to petition the Librarian of Congress to renew their exemption . . . demonstrates the fundamental flaw in section 1201.” This, and other exemptions that have been continuously renewed, provide ample fodder for comments on expanding the current permanent exemption class.

The Copyright Office is accepting comments through February 25, and reply comments through March 25. More information on participation and specific will be posted on the Office’s website by early February. Comments urging the Office to rethink the Rulemaking in order to preserve the resources wasted on a repetitive process and making the exemptions easier for the beneficiaries to understand will help to ensure that non-infringing lawful use can continue.

*During the 2010 rulemaking process, the Register of Copyrights recommended that the exemption for those with print disabilities be denied despite the fact that the NTIA recommended renewal. The Librarian of Congress, however, overruled the Register of Copyrights and granted the exemption.

 

New 1201 Rules on Exemptions to Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Protection Measures Released

On October 27, 2015, the Library of Congress released its final rules for the current cycle of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) Section 1201 rulemaking, setting forth exemptions from the prohibition against circumvention of technological protection measures (TPMs).  Every three years, proponents of exemptions must engage in a long process to seek renewal or expansion of existing exemptions or the granting of new exemptions in order to circumvent TPMs for non-infringing uses.  The new exemptions expand the previously granted exemptions in several areas and also grant new ones.

ARL, as part of the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) submitted petitions for proposed exemptions requesting renewal of an exemption grating people who are print disabled circumvention of technological protection measures on literary works distributed electronically as well as renewal and expansion of an exemption for motion picture excerpts for educational purposes.  LCA also joined in five filings that provide evidence for the need of various exceptions that have been proposed including for: use of audiovisual works for educational use, for MOOCs, and for informal learning and K-12; e-book accessibility; and 3-D printing.

The new rules renew the exemption for literary works distributed in electronic form for persons who are blind, visually impaired or print disabled.  Notably, there was no opposition to renewing the exemption granted in 2012 and the Association of American Publishers filed comments indicating it did not object to this renewal.  Additionally, the 2015 rules permit circumvention for motion picture excerpts for educational purposes.  In a long and detailed rule, the new exemption permits circumvention of DVDs and Blu-ray discs for the use of short portions of motion pictures by college and university faculty and students in film studies or courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts and by the faculty of massive open online courses (MOOCs) in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts (among other specific exceptions regarding use of motion picture excerpts).

The new exemptions also permit circumvention to access video games for the purpose of copying and modification to restore access to the game when necessary to allow preservation by a library, archive or museum.

Among other exemptions not directly related to libraries and higher education, but that highlight the absurdity of the process, the Copyright Office and Library of Congress considered exemptions to permit circumvention for the purpose of diagnosis, repair and modification of vehicles and for the purpose of security testing on vehicles or medical devices implanted in patients.  In April 2015, Wired published a piece highlighting the absurdity of using technological protection measures and copyright to prevent individuals from tinkering with items that they own in a piece titled “We Can’t Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership.”  While the Library of Congress ultimately granted (again, highly detailed) exemptions in these categories, but the exemption that allows diagnosis, repair or modification of a vehicle will not go into effect for 12 months.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) submitted its recommendations to the Copyright Office and noted concerns over the potential misuse of technological protection measures for non-copyright purposes and cautions against giving too much weight to non-copyright concerns implicated by proposed exemptions:

While there have long been proposed exemptions that implicated issues unrelated to copyright law, the sixth triennial rulemaking has stood out for its extensive discussions of matters with no or at best a very tenuous nexus to copyright protection.  Parties have, in this proceeding, raised concerns about medical device safety, vehicle emissions standards, best practices in software vulnerability disclosure, and other issues that are not contemplated in copyright law. In asserting the relevance of such matters to this proceeding, parties often cite the fifth statutory factor in this rulemaking, which allows the Librarian of Congress (and by extension, the Copyright Office) to consider “such other factors as the Librarian considers appropriate.”

NTIA urges the Copyright Office against interpreting the statute in a way that would require it to develop expertise in every area of policy that participants may cite on the record. Although Congress clearly included this factor to enable consideration of issues not otherwise enumerated, the deliberative process should not deviate too far afield from copyright policy concerns.6 As the Register of Copyrights noted in 2010, “the focus in this rulemaking is limited to actual or likely adverse effects on noninfringing uses of copyrighted works. No other agency has delegated authority to temporarily limit the application of the prohibition on circumvention. This prohibition was established to provide legal support for, and foster the availability of, copyrighted works in the digital environment.” Therefore, the Office should not, in its deliberations, heavily weigh unrelated matters such as greenhouse gas emissions or the quality of materials used to build aircraft, and should instead focus primarily on questions relevant to copyright law.8 Congress, applicable regulatory agencies, and their counterparts within state governments are well-equipped to deal with these non-copyright issues in the appropriate settings and under legal authorities focused on those issues.

Additionally, NTIA’s comments continue expressing concerns:

[T]hat security measures that have been deployed for non-copyright reasons—such as security and privacy, or possibly anti-competitive goals—are being described in this rulemaking as technological measures controlling access to copyrighted works under Section 1201.  This is a fundamental misuse of Section 1201, which can lead to reduced respect for the DMCA and copyright law, and can yield either an inappropriate overprotection of copyright (out of concern, for example, to avoid harming security), or a reduction in security (because of a grant of an exemption in this proceeding where indeed no significant copyright interest is at issue).

A related problem would arise if a manufacturer were to use the same technological protection measure to achieve two functions—enhance security and protect a legitimate copyright interest. Again, this could lead to inappropriate outcomes, and manufacturers would in many cases be well advised to separate techniques aimed at copyright protection from those aimed at security and privacy.

These concerns lead to two practical considerations. First, a record showing that a technological measure was not deployed with copyright protection in mind should weigh heavily in favor of a proposed exemption. Such a standard is entirely consistent with the statutory factors to be considered in this rulemaking.

Second, the increasing ubiquity of security measures has led to a widespread assumption that Section 1201 applies in a broader set of circumstances than may, in reality, be true. One of the clearest examples of this phenomenon appeared during the previous triennial rulemaking, when one group of proponents sought an exemption for circumventing access controls protecting public domain works.  The problem has further manifested itself during this proceeding, as highlighted by the confusion over whether circumvention is necessary to make certain repairs to video game consoles, as well as the possibility that the Lexmark decision may have placed some acts of circumvention involving 3D printers outside the scope of Section 1201.  In these circumstances, the Copyright Office has a role to play in clarifying the scope of Section 1201 through these proceedings. Where the prohibition against circumvention clearly does not apply, NTIA recommends the Copyright Office continue its previous practice of noting that a “requested exemption is beyond the scope of this rulemaking proceeding.”  Similarly, in cases where the prohibition may apply, but only in certain instances, NTIA suggests noting the prohibition’s limitations when recommending an exemption to the Librarian. NTIA further encourages the Copyright Office to make clear to manufacturers and content creators that they should remain cognizant of the underlying purposes for which an access control is implemented. Manufacturers should not implement access controls on devices to restrict certain device functions or enforce non-copyright-related business models—which is not the purpose behind Section 1201—and then try to use the DMCA to enforce a business model or limit a user’s post-purchase modification of a device.

While the 2015 exemptions include some improvements with respect to expanded exceptions, the rules have become more verbose and complex over the course of the six rulemaking cycles. The long, detailed exemptions will lead to greater confusion and make the exemptions less useful.  Laura Quilter has this excellent post on the complexity of the new exemptions.

What’s Missing from the Register’s Proposals

*Guest post by Jonathan Band, policybandwidth*

In her wrap-up testimony yesterday in the House Judiciary Committee’s two-year Copyright Review, Maria Pallante, the Register of Copyrights, identified three categories of policy issues: those that are ready for legislative process, those that warrant near-term study and analysis, and those that warrant further attention. Unfortunately, what many perceive to be the Copyright Act’s greatest flaw, the existing structure of statutory damages, received just a passing reference in the third “warrant attention” category. As numerous witnesses testified during the course of the Copyright Review, the threat of statutory damages of $150,000 per work infringed chills investment in innovative technologies and allows copyright trolls to extort settlements that greatly exceed the actual harm caused.

The Register paid more attention to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition on the circumvention of technological protection measures, 17 U.S.C. § 1201, which appears on the first two lists. While the Register’s recognition of Section 1201’s flaws is welcome, the Copyright Office has the power to address some of these deficiencies itself without additional Congressional action.

Register Pallante correctly observes that a wide range of stakeholders support “mak[ing] it easier to renew exemptions that have previously been adopted and are in force at the time of the triennial rulemaking proceeding.” She states that “the Copyright Office agrees that the process of renewing existing exemptions should be adjusted to create a regulatory presumption in favor of renewal.” Accordingly, she feels that “it would be beneficial for Congress to amend Section 1201 to provide that existing exemptions will be presumptively renewed during the ensuing triennial cases where there is no opposition.”

However, the Copyright Office need not wait for Congressional action to make the renewal process easier. The Register asserts that “the Section 1201 statutory framework requires that, to continue an existing exemption, proponents must bear the legal and evidentiary burden of justifying the exemption anew .…” In fact, Section 1201 itself imposes no such burden. It simply states that the Librarian must make a determination in a rulemaking proceeding whether to grant an exemption to users of a certain class of works and that the exemption lasts for three years. The statute says nothing about how the Librarian should handle renewals of existing exemptions.

The notion that a proponent must justify an exemption de novo every three years derives from a single sentence in a single committee report issued during the legislative process that resulted in the DMCA. This sentence states that the Librarian’s “assessment of adverse impacts on particular categories of works is to be determined de novo.” The Copyright Office in its administration of the rulemaking is not bound by this report language. Thus, it could decide to create a rebuttable presumption in favor of renewal.

Moreover, even if the Office chooses to give weight to this language, the language only states that the Librarian must take a fresh look at whether users of a class of works are likely to be adversely affected by Section 1201’s prohibition. It does not say that proponents must create a new legal and evidentiary record in support of renewal of the exemption. Instead, the Copyright Office and the Librarian could just review the record created in the previous rulemaking, as supplemented by interested parties in the current rulemaking. If opponents of renewal do not offer substantial evidence that renewal would harm the market for or value of their works, see § 1201(a)(C)(iv), the Librarian is likely to reach the same conclusion he reached three years earlier. In short, the Copyright Office could significantly lighten the burden of renewal by indicating that it will incorporate the record created in the previous rulemaking.

Additionally, in the category of policy issues that warrant near-term study and analysis, the Register identifies numerous other potential problems with Section 1201. She notes that some of the permanent exceptions may be too narrow in scope, and that the exemptions created under the rulemaking apply only to the act of circumvention, and not the development and distribution of circumvention tools.

Further, she observes that some stakeholders have suggested “a disconnect between the original purpose of Section 1201—protecting access to creative works—and its effect on a wide range of consumer goods that today contain copyrighted software.” (This was the subject of a DisCo post earlier this year.) She adds that “consumers have voiced discomfort that Section 1201 prevents them from engaging in activities, such as the repair of their automobiles and farm equipment, which previously had no implication under copyright law.”

It is true that the Copyright Office cannot change the scope of the existing permanent exceptions, nor extend the exemptions to the trafficking in circumvention tools. It is also true that the Copyright Office cannot unilaterally solve the problem of the application of Section 1201 to embedded software essential to the operation of larger devices and machines.

At the same time, the Copyright Office could take a more pragmatic approach toward exemptions for embedded software. For example, it could consider, and ultimately grant, a broad exemption for all software essential to the operation of hardware in the lawful possession of the user. Regrettably, in this rulemaking cycle the Copyright Office has gone in the opposite direction, drawing up classes as narrowly as possible. For the unlocking of devices from wireless networks, the Copyright Office has identified five separate classes for five different kinds of devices. It has done the same for the “jailbreaking” of devices so that they can access alternate lawful content. For circumvention of TPMs on vehicle software, for the purpose of diagnosis and repair, or after-market customization, the Copyright Office is considering only land vehicles, when the same issue obviously will apply to boats and aircraft.

By balkanizing the embedded software problem in this manner, the Copyright Office places a much greater burden on the applicants of each narrow class to meet the evidentiary standard the Office imposes. Section 1201 certainly does not require the identification of such narrow classes.

Obviously these measures will not address all the ills of Section 1201. Legislation along the lines of the Unlocking Technology Act, H.R. 1587, or the Breaking Down Barriers to Innovation Act, S. 990 and H.R. 1883, are necessary to do that. But the Copyright Office could adopt these measures now, without Congressional action.

The Register’s testimony raises too many other issues to be examined here. But one proposal merits attention. In the category of issues that warrant near-term study and analysis, the Register recommends a “formal and comprehensive study” of the safe harbors in Section 512 “to ensure that it is properly calibrated for the internet as we know it today.” Frankly, the Section 512 safe harbors have been studied to death. They have been the subject of numerous Congressional hearings and were a major focus of the Commerce Department Internet Policy Task Force report on Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy. As the Register’s testimony acknowledges, the Internet Policy Task Force’s report led to a year-long process to produce best practices for the notice and takedown system. The safe harbors have been examined in law review articles, economic studies, and Congressional Research Service reports. The Register asserts that “it is time to take stock of Section 512.” In fact, Congress, the Copyright Office, the PTO, the copyright owners, the Internet service providers, and public interest groups have been taking stock of Section 512 continuously since its enactment.

A far better use of government resources would be a formal and comprehensive study of statutory damages, “to consider what is working and what is not, along with possible legislative improvements…to…ensure that it properly calibrated for the internet as we know it today.”

LCA Applauds Re-Introduction of the Unlocking Technology Act

On March 24, 2015, U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) re-introduced the bipartisan Unlocking Technology Act, a bill that would permanently allow consumers to unlock their cell phones and also allow the opening of digital locks for other legitimate uses.  LCA applauds the re-introduction of this legislation which would facilitate legitimate uses of digital media and technology.

This bill improves on the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, passed by Congress in July 2014, which renewed the previously granted exemption to allow consumers to unlock their cell phones after the Copyright Office failed to renew the cell-phone unlocking exception in its 2012 triennial rulemaking process.  The Unlocking Technology Act permanently fixes a central flaw of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which can be interpreted to allow for liability for opening a digital lock even where there is no copyright infringement.  The bipartisan bill would free non-infringing uses of digital media and technology and allow the creation and distribution of the tools necessary to facilitate such legitimate uses.

Flaws of the 1201 Rulemaking Process

It’s Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation!  Today’s topic is “You Bought It, You Own It: Copyright policy should foster the freedom to truly own your stuff: to tinker with it, repair it, reuse it, recycle it, read or watch or launch it on any device, lend it, and then give it away (or re-sell it) when you’re done.”

You bought it, you own it.  This principle applies in the analog world, but in the digital world it is less clear.  In the digital world, technological protection measures (TPM) or “digital locks” may prevent a user from tinkering with a copyrighted work or product he has purchased, even if it is for a completely lawful purpose due to rules in the Copyright Act prohibiting circumvention of these locks.

ARL, as part of the Library Copyright Alliance, is currently involved in the Section 1201 rulemaking process, a procedure where the Copyright Office will determine what classes of works will receive an exemption from the anti-circumvention rules governing TPMs. The process takes place every three years—this is the sixth rulemaking—and individuals or groups can petition to have the previous exemptions renewed or expanded, or can apply for new exemptions.

The rulemaking process is time and resource consuming. Indeed, the 2009 rules were delayed and not announced until July of 2010. The entire process can take a year or more and because the exemptions are renewed de novo without any benefit of a presumption in favor of renewal, it is a burdensome procedure. These exemptions are not made permanent even after multiple renewals, but instead the entire process is repeated again and again.

It is important to note that the exemptions that are requested are for all for non-infringing uses. These are uses that would be permitted, without the time and expense of a rulemaking process, for copyrighted works in analog form which are not accompanied by TPMs. These uses might be for the same purposes as specific limitations and exceptions, such as the making of accessible format works for persons who are print disabled, or for fair use purposes. Despite the fact that these purposes are permitted where TPMs do not exist, in order to achieve these same purposes in the digital world, exemptions must be requested every three years.

This is a fundamental flaw in the language and interpretation of 1201. As LCA’s comments for the record at the House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the issue of technological protection measures points out:

The fact that every three years the blind need to expend scarce resources to petition the Librarian of Congress to renew their exemption—or that libraries and educators have to seek renewal of the film clip exemption every three years—demonstrates the fundamental flaw in section 1201. That flaw is that section 1201 could be interpreted to prohibit the circumvention of a technological protection measure even for the purpose of engaging in a lawful use of a work. Congress should adopt the approach proposed by the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 and its predecessors, attaching liability to circumvention only if it enables infringement.

LCA’s petitions for the 2015 rulemaking process highlight some absurdities. One of its petitions focuses on making literary works distributed electronically accessible for persons with print disabilities. Although this exemption has been continually renewed since 2003, the exemption must again be petitioned for and new evidence must be submitted. The second LCA petition requests an exemption for motion picture excerpts, including expanding the current exemption for all storage media, including Blu-Ray discs. The 2012 exemption applied only to a specific type of technological protection measure, known as Content Scrambling System, which is used with DVDs; because Blu-Ray discs used a different form of a TPM, this 2012 exemption did not apply.

In addition to the fact that the process is extremely repetitive, resource consuming and unnecessary, the rules have grown increasingly complex and long. In the 2003 rulemaking, the Librarian of Congress exempted four classes of works; these rules were laid out in 200 words. By contrast, the 2012 rules included eight classes of works—though five of these classes all relate to motion pictures, particularly excerpts or screen captures—and these exemptions amounted to nearly 1200 words. Consider, for example, the specific exemption for literary works distributed electronically. The word count more than doubled from its 2003 language to its 2012 language, becoming more complicated and including a cross-reference to Section 121 of the Copyright Act.

2003 exemption:

Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling of the ebook’s read-aloud function and that prevent the enabling of screen readers to render the text into a specialized format.

2012 exemption:

(1) Literary works, distributed electronically, that are protected by technological measures which either prevent the enabling of read-aloud functionality or interfere with screen readers or other applications or assistive technologies in the following instances:

(i) When a copy of such a work is lawfully obtained by a blind or other person with a disability, as such a person is defined in 17 U.S.C. 121; provided, however, the rights owner is remunerated, as appropriate, for the price of the mainstream copy of the work as made available to the general public through customary channels; or

(ii) When such work is a nondramatic literary work, lawfully obtained and used by an authorized entity pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 121.

The result of the increasingly complicated and specific language across all the exemptions (in fact, the language for the benefit of the print disabled above is relatively simple in comparison to other 2012 exemptions) is that these exemptions become virtually unusable for many users.

The process should be re-thought to ensure that 1) resources are not unnecessarily wasted through a repetitive, time-consuming process and 2) the beneficiaries of these exemptions can clearly understand the rules and make use of the exemptions.

Copyright Week!

Today is the start of Copyright Week,  a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

copyright-square-1

Stay tuned the rest of this week for posts on technological protection measures, fair use, transparency in policymaking, and the importance of the public domain!

 

New WikiLeaks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement Intellectual Property Chapter — Analysis of Copyright Provisions

The United States is currently negotiating a large, regional free trade agreement with eleven other countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. On October 16, 2014, WikiLeaks published a new leak of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’s (TPP) negotiating text for the intellectual property chapter. This text, dated May 16, 2014, contains some substantial changes from last year’s November leak of the text (which revealed the state of negotiations as of August 2013).

The chapter is now shorter and numerous brackets (brackets denote areas of the text which have not yet been agreed to) have been removed. The text also includes some new provisions. Some differences between the copyright provisions from last year’s leak to today’s leak are highlighted below. However, given that the leaked text is from May, further changes may have been made in the last five months and bracketed issues may have been resolved. TPP negotiations will continue in Australia next week where issues may reach further resolution.

Copyright Term

In the prior leak, New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Canada and Japan supported a proposal allowing the copyright term of protection to be determined by “each Party’s domestic law and the international agreements to which each Party is a party.” The current leak reveals that this proposal has been eliminated.

The new text suggests that the copyright term will be specified in the TPP, though the exact number of years has not yet been agreed to. Bracketed language around the period of years reveals that the three options being discussed are life of the author plus fifty, seventy or one-hundred years. The United States, along with the countries with which the United States already has bilateral trade agreements with—Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore—currently have a period of protection of life plus seventy years. Mexico is the only country that provides for life of the author plus one hundred years. The other countries in the agreement use the international standard of life plus fifty years.

For corporate works that have been published, the bracketed text includes periods of protection of fifty, seventy, seventy-five or ninety-five years.

In addition to these specified periods of years, a new proposal similar to the Berne rule of shorter term appears in the leaked text. This rule would essentially allow parties to limit the term of protection provided to authors of another party to the term provided under that party’s legislation. For example, if the final TPP text required a period of copyright protection of life plus fifty years, the United States would not be required to provide its period of life plus seventy years to authors in New Zealand if New Zealand continued to provide a term of life plus fifty years. The United States currently does not implement the Berne rule of shorter term.

Formalities

Another new provision in the text is a rule against formalities. Article QQ.G.X is unbracketed and therefore appears to be agreed to by the TPP negotiating parties. It reads, “No Party may subject the enjoyment and exercise of the rights of authors, performers and producers of phonograms provided for in this Chapter to any formality.”

This language could be problematic if the United States, or other TPP parties, wanted to re-introduce formalities for copyright protections granted that go beyond minimum international standards. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, for example, proposed the re-introduction of formalities for the last twenty years of copyright protection in the United States. If adopted, such a proposal would violate the TPP and subject the United States to investor-state dispute settlement, under which a corporation could sue the Unites States government for failure to comply with the TPP.

Limitations and Exceptions

Parties to the TPP have agreed to include language on limitations and exceptions, including a provision that has not been included in prior U.S. free trade agreements. This language reads:

Each Party shall endeavor to achieve an appropriate balance in its copyright and related rights system, inter alia by means of limitations or exceptions that are consistent with Article QQ.G.16.1, including those for the digital environment, giving due consideration to legitimate purposes such as, but not limited to: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research, and other similar purposes; and facilitating access to [AU oppose: published] works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print [AU propose: or perceptually] disabled.116 117

116 {In particular,} As recognized by the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled (June 27, 2013).
117 For purposes of greater clarity, a use that has commercial aspects may in appropriate circumstances be considered to have a legitimate purpose under Article QQ.G.16.3.

Most of this language had already been agreed to in the November 2013 leak. However, the new leak reveals that parties have now agreed to include facilitating access for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. Additionally, footnote 116 specifically referencing the Marrakesh Treaty is a new addition. While the Marrakesh Treaty has not yet been ratified by any of the TPP countries and has not yet entered into force (the treaty requires twenty ratifications; India and El Salvador are currently the two countries that have ratified it), several of the TPP negotiating parties have signed the treaty including the United States, Australia, Chile, Mexico, and Peru.

Technological Protection Measures

The language on technological protection measures (TPMs) in last year’s leak was heavily bracketed, highlighting the lack of agreement in this area. The United States initially proposed a closed set of limitations and exceptions to allow circumvention of TPMs, with additional limitations and exceptions possible through a three-year rulemaking process modeled off of Section 1201 of the United States Copyright Law.

The new TPP text eliminates the specific limitations and exceptions and three-year rulemaking process. It now allows limitations and exceptions through legislative, regulatory or administrative processes. Additionally, the United States’ proposed “substantial evidence” burden (proposed in conjunction with allowing new limitations and exceptions through the rulemaking process)—a standard not found in the United States Copyright Law—has been eliminated. This new text, with the exception of a few clauses, has been agreed to by the TPP parties.

The text now provides that:

Each Party may provide [MY/MX/PE oppose: certain] exceptions and limitations to the measures implementing subparagraphs (a)(i) and (ii) in order to enable non-infringing uses where there is an actual or likely adverse impact of those measures on those non-infringing uses, as determined through a legislative, regulatory, or administrative process in accordance with the Party’s law, giving due consideration to evidence when presented in that process, including with respect to whether appropriate and effective measures have been taken by rights holders to enable the beneficiaries to enjoy the limitations and exceptions under that Party’s law [in accordance with Article QQ.G.16] [CL propose:, as well as the evidence presented by the beneficiaries with respect to the necessity of the creation of such exception and limitation]

This language is an improvement over the United States’ previous proposal because it would allow for new permanent limitations and exceptions that would allow for circumvention of TPMs—for example, for cell-phone unlocking. However, the language seems to assume that parties need to provide for limitations and exceptions even for non-infringing uses. As noted in a recent Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) statement, one of the flaws of Section 1201 in the United States Copyright Law is that this section could be interpreted to prohibit circumvention of a TPM even for the purpose of engaging in a lawful use of the work.

Additionally, it may be difficult to create a general permanent limitation and exception allowing for circumvention for any non-infringing use, such as was proposed in the Unlocking Technology Act due to the language requiring consideration of an “actual or likely adverse impact” of TPMs and evidence presented, including “whether … measures have been taken by rights holders to enable the beneficiaries to enjoy the limitations and exceptions under that Party’s law.” Requiring such considerations could be interpreted as allowing new permanent or temporary limitations and exceptions, but only on a case-by-case basis rather than by a general rule.

Internet Service Provider Liability

The latest leak of the TPP text also includes several new non-papers attached as addenda. The non-paper on Internet service provider liability is included as Addendum III and heavily bracketed.