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Hollywood Docket: Hacking Rights

A $4 million civil settlement in a case tied to the jailed private eye, a copyright case involving the hit 80s show and a DMCA-related ruling on copying highlight recent entertainment and media law news. 

The U.S. Copyright Office has ruled on exempting certain activities from being illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention protections.

The decision came after proposals were brought forward by public advocates, libraries, documentary filmmakers, individual consumers and others. The Copyright Office held hearings and considered allowing more tinkering to consumer entertainment and mobile devices.

It’s a process that happens every three years, and this time around, the Copyright Office decided that it’s OK to take a DVD and “make use of short portions…for the purpose of criticism or comment” in noncommercial videos such as remix or mash-up videos, documentary films, multimedia ebooks offering film analysis, and for educational purposes such as a film studies classroom.

“Without this exemption, many important projects currently in production could not have been made,” said Michael Donaldson, an attorney who worked with the USC Intellectual Property Clinic and a coalition of documentary filmmakers on the issue. “This is a great day for documentary filmmaking and for the future of books.”

In addition, the Copyright Office applied these circumvention exceptions to online distribution services as well.

“We’re thrilled that the Copyright Office broke new ground in protecting remix artists,” wrote EFF intellectual property director Corynne McSherry. “We can’t let misguided federal law block a new form of art and expression.”

Advocates of looser hacking rules didn’t get everything they wanted. While the Copyright Office reauthorized an allowance to circumvent access controls on mobile phones to allow software interoperability, it will now become illegal to jailbreak mobile phones to connect to wireless networks other than the original carrier. This means people who buy an iPhone through AT&T can’t change the settings to connect with Sprint or another carrier.

Consumer advocates are also not happy about decision to prevent jailbreaking of iPads and to prevent the cracking of DVDs for personal use and time-shifting allowances.

““Under this view of the law every personal non-commercial space shift is a violation of copyright law,” said Public Knowledge vp Michael Weinberg. “That means, according to the Copyright Office, every person who has ever ripped a CD to put on her iPod is a copyright infringer.”

THR Article