Copyright Law Shouldn't Punish Research and Repair

Act small 1201

Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal to circumvent digital locks (DRM). This law holds back the work of security researchers and repair businesses, making all of us more vulnerable to security holes in the products we buy.

Let’s send a strong message to the U.S. Copyright Office and lawmakers: copyright law should not criminalize research and repair.

When the DMCA passed in 1998, the DRM landscape was very different from today. Section 1201 was intended to stop copyright “pirates” from defeating DRM in order to make and use copies of creative work like music and films. In practice, DMCA 1201 hasn't had much impact on unauthorized sharing of copyrighted content. Instead, it's hampered lawful creativity, innovation, competition, security, and privacy.

The Copyright Office has taken notice. It’s asking for feedback on a new proposal for a set of permanent exemptions to DMCA 1201, including for security research and repair.

On the one hand, the Copyright Office’s recommendation may be too little and too late. Given the pace at which technology evolves, there’s no way that a set of exemptions can ever keep up with the plethora of otherwise legal activities that the law calls into question. Under 1201, users’ rights will always lag behind technology.

On the other hand, the Copyright Office’s recommendations are a promising development. We can use this opportunity to show both the Copyright Office and lawmakers that 1201's pro-DRM provisions impact everyone. The office needs to hear from you about the importance of security research and repair in today’s digital world.

Please join us in telling the Copyright Office that copyright law shouldn’t undermine our right to repair.

April 16, 2024

We join EFF in urging the Copyright Office to recommend strong, practical, and permanent exemptions to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to protect repair, security research, and other important lawful activity from the threat of lawsuits and criminal prosecution.

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