Via Jeremy Butler and the SCMS-TV list comes news that the U.S. Copyright Office announced Wednesday six new exemptions to copyright restrictions. Numbered among these exemptions is one of particular interest:
The exemption granted to film professors authorizes the breaking of the CSS copy-protection technology found in most DVDs. Programs to do so circulate widely on the Internet, though it has been illegal to use or distribute them.
The professors said they need the ability to create compilations of DVD snippets to teach their classes — for example, taking portions of old and new cartoons to study how animation has evolved. Such compilations are generally permitted under “fair use” provisions of copyright law, but breaking the locks to make the compilations has been illegal.
Hollywood studios have argued that educators could turn to videotapes and other versions without the copy protections, but the professors argued that DVDs are of higher quality and may preserve the original colors or dimensions that videotapes lack.
“The record did not reveal any alternative means to meet the pedagogical needs of the professors,” Billington wrote.
This is a significant change, allowing for legal circumvention of DRM technologies for pedagogical purposes. If those pedagogical purposes can be extended beyond the classroom to include the texts written by professors, a significant milestone in the protection of fair use will have been reached.