DMCA Blocks Consumers from Downloading Apps That Big Tech Companies Don’t Approve Of

San Francisco—On Tuesday, April 20, and Wednesday, April 21, experts from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) fighting copyright abuse will testify at virtual hearings held by the Copyright Office in favor of exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) so people who have purchased digital devices—from cameras and e-readers to smart TVs—can repair or modify them, or download new software to enhance their functionality.

The online hearings are part of a rulemaking process held every three years by the Copyright Office to determine whether people are harmed by DMCA “anti-circumvention” provisions, which prohibit anyone from bypassing or disabling access controls built into products by manufacturers to lock down the software that runs them. These provisions are often abused by technology companies to control how their devices are used and stop consumers, innovators, competitors, researchers, and everyday repair businesses from offering new, lower-cost, and creative services.

EFF Staff Attorney Cara Gagliano will testify Tuesday in support of a universal DMCA exemption for the repair and modification of any software-enabled device, including everything from digital cameras and e-readers to automated litterboxes and robotic pets. The Copyright Office’s existing policy of granting exemptions in piecemeal fashion for certain devices every three years is unjustified and completely inadequate—the legal analysis for the exemption, that it’s needed to allow noninfringing uses, is the same across all devices, Gagliano will testify.

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz will testify Wednesday in support of expanding the Copyright Office’s “jailbreaking” exception to the anti-circumvention law. In past years, EFF has fought for and won the right to “jailbreak” or “root” personal computing devices including smartphones, tablets, wearables, smart TVs, and smart speakers, allowing people to install the software of their choice on the devices they own without the manufacturer’s permission. This year, Stoltz will urge the Copyright Office to expand that exemption to cover “streaming boxes” and “streaming sticks”—devices that add “smart TV” functionality to an ordinary TV.

WHAT: Virtual Hearings on DMCA Rulemaking

WHEN AND WHERE:
April 20, 7:30 am – 9:30 am (device repair and modification).  To stream via Zoom: https://loc.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN__bjnscN1TpiTrIVf19DsRw
April 21, 7:30 am – 9:30 am (“jailbreaking” streaming boxes). To stream via Zoom: https://loc.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_T8S5cKSHQ-ujcVPBHH_ozw

For EFF comments to the Copyright Office:
https://www.eff.org/document/eff-comment-2021-dmca-rulemaking-repair
https://www.eff.org/document/eff-comment-2021-dmca-rulemaking-reply-repair
https://www.eff.org/document/eff-comment-2021-dmca-rulemaking-jailbreaking
https://www.eff.org/document/eff-comment-2021-dmca-rulemaking-reply-jailbreaking-0

For full hearing agendas:
https://www.copyright.gov/1201/2021/public-hearings/hearing-agenda.pdf

For more about DMCA rulemaking and copyright abuse:
https://www.eff.org/issues/dmca-rulemaking
https://www.eff.org/issues/innovation
https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/02/copyright-law-versus-internet-culture

Contact: 
Cara
Gagliano
Staff Attorney
Mitch
Stoltz
Senior Staff Attorney

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