Through the years, the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic has had the exciting opportunity to work on several DMCA exemption petitions, and is again participating in this process. The previous petitions submitted by the IP Clinic involved a collaborative effort with educators and students. Securing these exemptions has assured that professors and students can continue to break digital locks and use short portions of audiovisual works for educational purposes.
This year, a student team led by Melanie Singer and Alissa Logan is working with Peter Decherney, Professor of Cinema Studies and English at the University of Pennsylvania, to submit a petition on behalf of university professors aimed at providing greater access to fair use materials for online digital education opportunities.
Passed in 1998, Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal to break digital locks on copyrighted material, even when what you intend to do with the work is otherwise legal, such as fairly using the material. To account for the breadth of the DMCA legislation, the Copyright Office, every three years, holds a proceeding to consider and grant limited exemptions for uses where the petitioner can show the law is creating a substantial burden on free expression or is inhibiting other valuable activities.
In each triennial rulemaking process, petitioners can renew their previous exemptions, petition to expand those exemptions, or petition for a new exemption.
On behalf of Professor Decherney, Singer and Logan petitioned for a new exemption seeking to expand the current exemption for fair use of audiovisual materials to all online educational institutions. This exemption would allow professors of any online course to fairly use short portions of video or still images from these works to prepare a lecture or dissertation to engage students in the content being taught regardless of the forum for the course or type of course.
The petition aims to level the playing field so that online educational exemptions match traditional educational exemptions and so that all digital educational opportunities are available in the new digital economy.