Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Educational Use of Media: Exemptions to the DMCA

The Librarian of Congress has just accepted a request for exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was filed by University of Pennsylvania professors Katherine Sender (Communication), Peter Decherney (Cinema Studies) and Michael X. Delli Carpini (Annenberg School for Communication Dean). The exemption allows media and film professors to copy clips from DVDs in a university media or film department's collection. This is a deliberately narrow class of users, but the hope is to build upon this for the next round.

Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) prohibits the circumvention of encryption on all digital media. It is violation of the DMCA, for example, to make a digital copy of a DVD, because doing so would require breaking the copy protection.
The Librarian of Congress has the power to create exemptions to section 1201 in order to protect fair use. Every three years, the Copyright Office reviews requests for exemptions and makes recommendations to the Librarian of Congress.

As a result of the 2006 round of exemption requests, the Librarian of Congress created an exemption for film and media studies professors who need to create clips for use in their classes. The exemption applies to any media stored in the library of a film or media studies department.

The official exemption is for:
Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors.

This exemption is in effect from November 27, 2006 - October 27, 2009.

Questions? Contact Peter Decherney at

Relevant Documents
Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998
Comment filed by Peter Decherney, Katherine Sender and Michael X. Delli Carpini
Reply comments submitted by Decherney, Sender and Delli Carpini
Recommendation of the Copyright Office
Federal Register Notice Announcing Exemptions

Useful Links
US Copyright Office Anticircumvention Rulemaking Harvard Law Digital Learning Case Study

International Communication Association
Society for Cinema and Media Studies

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