Published: Oct. 31, 2018
TLPC students
TLPC students

New exemptions benefit disability services professionals, the visually impaired, security researchers, and authors.

The Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law and Policy Clinic, directed by Associate Clinical Professor Blake E. Reid, secured a slew of renewals and modifications to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), as announced in a ruling by the Library of Congress Oct. 26. The Librarian of Congress renewed four exemptions that improve the state of fair use for a range of individuals, including security professionals finding vulnerabilities in voting machines, disability services professionals adding captions and descriptions to videos for educational use, authors using video clips in e-books, and the visually impaired accessing books read aloud.

Security research

One modification expands a security research exemption that, among other things, makes it easier for security researchers to ensure that vote-tabulation and other critical systems are resistant to nation-state hacking and cyberwarfare. The modification eliminates previous limitations that discouraged researchers from using particular devices and in certain environments, and from publishing about, criticizing, or speaking about the security vulnerabilities they may have discovered. Student attorneys worked in collaboration with the Center for Democracy and Technology and filed this comment on behalf of TLPC clients and information security researchers Ed Felten and J. Alex Halderman.

Disability services

In a win for disability services providers, the Librarian of Congress granted a new exemption to allow disability services offices make videos used in classroom settings accessible to students with disabilities through the provision of closed captions and audio descriptions.

Multimedia e-books

The Librarian of Congress also ruled to modify an exemption that will allow author groups to incorporate encrypted multimedia elements in fictional e-books. Under the previous exemption, only authors “offering film analysis” in nonfiction e-books could access such content. The TLPC, together with co-counsel the Intellectual Property, Arts and Technology (IPAT) Clinic at the University of California Irvine School of Law, represented major author groups including Authors Alliance, the American Association of University Professors, the Organization for Transformative Works, and the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation.

“These exemptions, and those obtained by other proponents in the proceeding, represent an important step forward in the recognition that copyright law needs to better accommodate fair uses of copyrighted works in a digital environment,” Reid said. “I am incredibly proud of the Colorado Law student attorneys who drafted tens of thousands of words of incredibly high-quality analysis and advocacy on the intersection between copyright law, computer science, and everything from disability policy to the sociology of fan fiction.”

TLPC students and Reid traveled to Washington, D.C. in April 2018, where they testified with clients and partners in formal hearings at the U.S. Copyright Office.

Congratulations to Reid and Angel Antkers (‘19), Elizabeth Field (‘18), Sophia Galleher (’19), Brett Hildebrand (‘18), Alex Kimata ('18), Justin Manusov ('18), Susan Miller (’19), and John Schoppert (’19).

The TLPC is a leading advocate of making copyrighted works more accessible to people with disabilities, cutting-edge security research, and other fair uses. For more than a decade, the TLPC has been involved in the U.S. Copyright Office’s triennial review of DMCA exemptions and has secured a number of key wins in the areas of security research, e-book accessibility, and authors’ rights. In 2016, the clinic was recognized with a California Lawyer Attorney of the Year award, along with co-counsel the IPAT Clinic at UC Irvine, for its work seeking DMCA exemptions on behalf of authors and filmmakers.  

Read the final ruling from the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress.