While attempts at reforming the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) this past year have been lackluster at best, a bi-partisan team of lawmakers in the House of Representatives has finally introduced a substantive modification to the DMCA that would remove many of its harshest provisions.
The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 is sponsored by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Jared Polis (D-CO). It explicitly legalizes the unlocking of cell phones, for starters, and then goes a step further to allow the unlocking of copy-protected content for legal use (i.e. to make a backup, move it from one platform to another, etc). It reads that if a circumvention tech is “primarily designed or produced for the purpose of facilitating noninfringing uses,” then it is legal and not a violation of copyright.
One side effect, for example, is the creation of transcripts automatically to be read to the blind. Currently, anyone using software to translate a Nook or Kindle book to audio is technically breaking the law, but under this new bill, using a reader to speak a book is not infringement.
A lot of other things are made possible by this bill. DVD owners can now rip their own DVDs in order to have backups, car owners can now service vehicles (specifically the electronics) without infringement, etc. In other words, a lot of electronics that were previously treated separately from regular consumer items would no longer be treated as such.
Now, we will see how well this bill does in Congress. It will have opposition, you can bet on that.