The 1201 giant rests, momentarily

This week, the U.S. Copyright Office issued exemptions to the 1201 rulemaking, something that I have whined about before, but this time around, there is a growing number of the disenchanted—from all walks of life, including farmers, video game enthusiasts, vidders, and software security engineers and researchers. The Internet of Things has made circumvention of technological protection measures (aka DRM) a more common concern because software is embedded in tractors, refrigerators, pacemakers and some litter box containers. More people who lawfully purchase a product may have to deal with the convoluted, changing nature, and uncertainty that the 1201 rulemaking promises to bring.

Photo Credit: Lucarelli

Photo Credit: Lucarelli

Maybe you’ve seen the news about the auto industry and the medical device manufacturers. They are now part of the 1201 cabal because you have software in your Volvo and your medical implant. And welcome to the regulatory agencies! Pull up a chair! The Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other government departments were asked to comment on emission standards and regulations that govern the use of the software inside your large terrain vehicle. Folks that want a smaller government would have a field day with this stuff.

Will this absurdity continue? Senators Leahy and Grassley, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary, sent a letter to the Copyright Office asking it to look into the impact of copyright law on software-enabled devices. Pity the Copyright Office. This is getting so complicated that it’ll take months, no years, for the Copyright Office to consider this very big issue. It points again to the disconnect between copyright law and the real world. The 1201 rulemaking initially was meant to limit unlawful access to motion pictures, music, and other copyrighted content—easy stuff like that. Now the 1201 rulemaking has grown well out of its hefty pants, and just might impact everyone, yes, even you. Where does it end? Where does it even begin?

About Carrie Russell

Carrie Russell is the Director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Office for Information Technology Policy. Her portfolio includes copyright, international copyright, accessibility, e-books and other public policy issues. She has a MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a MA in media arts from the University of Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at crussell@alawash.org.

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