Copy protection can sometimes be bypassed

Users can bypass media copy protection on copyrighted works in certain cases, according to a new ruling from the Library of Congress' Copyright Office.

The copyright office has ruled on six exemptions or situational applications to digital copyright protection. In those six cases, breaking those digital protections is permissible, according to a notice in today’s Federal Register.

Digital copyright protection refers to techniques such as disc encryption or keys to block the illegal copying of copyrighted works. The rule identifies situations in which such protections might inadvertently limit access to legally acquired material. It permits users to bypass copyright protection in those special situations.

The purpose of the final rule "is to determine whether users of particular classes of copyrighted works are...adversely affected by the prohibition in their ability to make noninfringing uses of copyrighted works,” the Federal Register states.

The rule cites the example of Sony BMG Music Entertainment's use of copyright protection software on CDs, which sometimes can limit a computer's functionality.

Users can also bypass protection when, for example, obsolete computer programs deny access unless users have the original hardware or when programs require obsolete security dongles that have been damaged.

The rule cited additional special cases, such as audiovisual media for an educational library or a university’s media studies department, e-books whose entire printing runs are copyright-protected and cell phone firmware.

The register entry does not provide instructions for bypassing copyright protection.

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