The Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits "circumventing" digital rights management (DRM) and "other technical protection measures" used to protect copyrighted works. While this ban was meant to deter copyright infringement many have misused the law to chill competition free speech and fair use. Every three years the U.S. Copyright Office convenes a rulemaking to consider granting exemptions to the DMCA's ban on circumvention to mitigate the harms the law has caused to legitimate non-infringing uses of copyrighted materials.
In 2003 EFF filed for four exemptions all seeking to allow consumers to repair DRM-crippled CDs and DVDs. All four exemptions were denied.
In 2006 EFF did not file any DMCA exemption requests. Instead we explained why the rulemaking process is fundamentally broken.
In 2009 EFF sought three exemptions: One to allow video remixing and two to allow cell phone unlocking. In a huge victory for digital rights all three exemptions were granted.
In 2012 EFF sought to build on expand the exemptions won in the 2009 rulemaking. EFF asked the Copyright Office to protect the "jailbreaking" of smartphones, electronic tablets, and video game consoles. EFF also asked for legal protections for artists and critics who use excerpts from DVDs or downloading services to create new, remixed works. The Copyright Office renewed the exemption for smartphones, but did not extend it to other devices. The Copyright Office also reaffirmed the exemption for video remix, and expanded it to allow use of clips from online services.
In 2015, EFF sought six exemptions: Enabling security professionals to conduct research into the safety and security of vehicles; Allowing automobile owners to circumvent restrictions to repair and personalize their vehicles; Legal protections for circumventing DRM to extract clips to create new and remixed audiovisual works from streaming sources; "Jailbreaking" of mobile computing devices such as smartphones and tablets to enable interoperability and remove unwanted software; Circumventing DRM in DVDs and Blu-Ray discs to extract clips; Enabling users to circumvent DRM to restore access to games abandoned by their developers.
In 2018, EFF sought five exemptions: Repair, diagnosis, and tinkering with any software-enabled device, including “Internet of Things” devices, appliances, computers, peripherals, toys, vehicle, and environmental automation systems; Jailbreaking personal computing devices, including smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and personal assistant devices like the Amazon Echo and the forthcoming Apple HomePod; Using excerpts from video discs or streaming video for criticism or commentary, without the narrow limitations on users (noncommercial vidders, documentary filmmakers, certain students) that the Copyright Office now imposes; Security research on software of all kinds, which can be found in consumer electronics, medical devices, vehicles, and more; and Lawful uses of video encrypted using High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP, which is applied to content sent over the HDMI cables used by home video equipment).
In 2021 EFF is seeking to build on the device repair exemption won in the 2018 rulemaking, arguing that it should be expanded to cover all software-enabled devices and that the covered activities should include device modification, not just repair and diagnosis. We’re also seeking clarification that the 2015 exemption for jailbreaking smart TVs covers jailbreaking of streaming video devices like the Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire Stick. We’ve also asked the Copyright Office to renew the existing exemptions for jailbreaking and device repair.