Digital Locks Loosening?

The Librarian of Congress has recommended new exemptions from the prohibition on circumventing digital copy protections including one exemption for “jailbreaking” phones so that you can install your own software.

Another sign that perhaps section 1201 might not be as broadly applied going forward is this recent decision from the Fifth Circuit. That case involved the use of software that controlled uninterruped power supply devices. GE and PMI were accused of copyright infringement and circumvention because they had accessed and used the software which had an already circumvented or compromised dongle. The Fifth Circuit held that GE/PMI’s activities were not otherwise infringing and thus the circumvention was not actionable under section 1201. This seems to be a somewhat different position than that taken in the DeCSS case.

I’m not sure if this is really part of a trend, but it is encouraging for anyone who believed otherwise non-infringing activities should not give rise to a copyright lawsuit merely because a digital lock was circumvented. Section 1201 has been used unsuccessfully in the past to try to prevent competition in the markets for garage door openers and printer ink cartridges.