The Library of Congress (which oversees the US Copyright Office) has adopted new guidelines on types of activities that will not be considered to violate the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).

The DMCA, which dates from 1998, governs (among other things) the “circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works.”

Legal Exemptions

Certain types of circumventions are allowed when it is shown that an “access-control technology has had a substantial adverse effect on the ability of people to make non-infringing uses of copyrighted works.”

The Library of Congress revisits the circumvention issue every three years, allowing interested parties to file petitions favoring or opposing specific changes.

Game Mods

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and a Harvard Law School student filed a petition seeking an exemption from the anti-circumvention provisions

to enable those who have lawfully acquired copies of video games to access and play those games when authentication or matchmaking servers have been permanently taken offline.

For example, some popular video games have been removed from servers as early as 18 months after their release, leaving people who paid for legal copies unable to play them.

Under the Library’s proposed new exemption, circumvention would be allowed under limited circumstances.

Car Hacks

As Wired reported, the DMCA has been used to prevent farmers from accessing the software that controls their tractors.

The DMCA was also implicated by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the recent scandal involving Volkswagen vehicle emissions controlled by software. The EFF claimed the DMCA inhibited independent investigations of the software.

Under the new guidelines, there will be an exemption to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention rules for “Computer programs that are contained in and control the functioning of a motorized land vehicle.”


The new guidelines are good news for gamers, academics, filmmakers, car tinkerers, and others who will gain from this expansion of “fair use” rights under copyright law.

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Leech Tishman’s Intellectual Property Group is based in Pasadena, California with a team of highly-regarded legal professionals with prosecution and litigation expertise in the fields of patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets.

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Photo Attribution: “Autoboss v-30″ by Florian Schäffer – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

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