Update 2: Statement from Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) Welcoming New Exemptions to Section 1201
Update 1: Librarian of Congress Grants 1201 Exemption to Enable Text Data Mining Research (via Authors Alliance)
Advocates for the blind are fighting an endless battle to access ebooks that sighted people take for granted, working against copyright law that gives significant protections to corporate powers and publishers who don’t cater to their needs. For the past year, they’ve once again undergone a lengthy petitioning process to earn a critical exemption to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act that provides legal cover for people to create accessible versions of ebooks.
Baked into Section 1201 of the DMCA is a triennial process through which the Library of Congress considers exceptions to rules that are intended to protect copyright owners. Since 2002, groups advocating for the blind have put together lengthy documents asking for exemptions that allow copy protections on ebooks to be circumvented for the sake of accessibility. Every three years, they must repeat the process, like Sisyphus rolling his stone up the hill.
On Wednesday, the US Copyright Office released a report recommending the Librarian of Congress once again grant the three-year exemption; it will do so in a final rule that takes effect on Thursday. The victory is tainted somewhat by the struggle it represents. Although the exemption protects people who circumvent digital copyright protections for the sake of accessibility—by using third-party programs to lift text and save it in a different file format, for example—that it’s even necessary strikes many as a fundamental injustice.
“As the mainstream has embraced ebooks, accessibility has gotten lost,” says Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “It’s an afterthought.”
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