posted Oct 27, 2000

Copyright office backs 'right' to limit content access
10/27/2000; 2:21:49 PM

'THE COPYRIGHT OFFICE, part of the Library of Congress, decided to allow only two narrow exemptions to a new federal law that makes it illegal for Web users to hack through the barriers that copyright holders erect around books, films, music and other content released online. The decision will be in effect for three years...

'The two exemptions the copyright office did allow are both minor in scope. The first exemption involves software that blocks children and others from finding obscene or other controversial material on the Web. Buried in the software typically is a list of the Web sites being filtered. Those lists are often encrypted to keep people from seeing them. But the copyright office said it should be legal for users to access such lists, in part so people can criticize and debate them. The other exemption involves giving people the right to bypass malfunctioning security features of software and other copyrighted goods they have purchased.'

"Minor in scope"? They almost might as well not exist.  In fact, they are so narrow they almost don't. The reasoning involved in the decision that we have a right to see the ban lists extends to many other things as well (don't we have a right to know what information a program is transmitting to others, without our consent?), but the Copyright Office gives us not the reasoning, not guidelines, but limited rules that will be swiftly circumvented or even struck down in court.

The government needs to stop trying to enumerate every possible case and make specific decisions... it won't work, there's too many specific cases and more coming every day.

'The decision is the latest signal that the legal landscape for digital copyright issues is sorting out largely in favor of copyright owners.'


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