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COPYRIGHT OFFICE MAKES
DIGITAL CONTENT DECISION

Federal Law Prohibits Hacking And
Wearing White After Labor Day
What do Janet Jackson and owners of digital property have in common? They're all in control.

The Federal Copyright Office has decided to allow only two 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 online content. The decision will be in effect for three years and is helping to pave the way for digital intellectual-property law.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the first exemption involves software that blocks access to pornography to children on the Web. The other exemption gives people who have purchased software and other copyrighted materials the right to bypass malfunctioning security features.

The Copyright Office rejected a recommendation from the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration for a far broader exception. The administration urged that the Copyright Office ensure that "lawfully acquired" copies of works could be used in ways that didn't infringe on traditional copyright laws.

Libraries and universities had lobbied against such a ruling on the basis it could prevent them from lending or archiving copyrighted material. The Association of American Universities asked for an exemption for digital versions of scholarly journals, maps and certain databases, arguing they were valuable mainly for their facts, which can't be copyrighted.

Meanwhile, entertainment companies countered that they needed legal protection from hackers and other unauthorized users and assured their opponents they would not collect unreasonable fees for each use of a copyrighted work.

Media-industry attorney Steven Metalitz said he was pleased that the copyright office "seems to have rejected the unjustified proposals put forward by some for a sweeping exemption." AAU Executive Vice President John Vaughn said the disappointing ruling will force universities to endure "three years of loss of access to information."

The debate is centered on an effort to update traditional copyright law for use in the digital age. The anti-hacking provision enacted by Congress gave the copyright office authorization to create any exemptions that might be needed to maintain a balance between the rights of copyright holders and users of the material.

The Copyright Office rule was published today in the Federal Register. The law against breaking through technological protections officially goes into effect on Saturday.

We hope you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed writing it. Thank you.

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