The US Copyright Office has opened the door to exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by inviting comments on the controversial law.
But don't get too excited, this is a very narrow consultation process that won't have any bearing on the law itself - only on how it might be applied. Still, it is only the second time since the DMCA was passed in 1998 that the public have had a chance to highlight practical problems the Act has caused them, and suggest exceptions.
Last time out only two activities were ruled acceptable: encryption could be broken to reveal the Web sites blocked by filtering programs and copy protection on software or other works could be broken if it was found to be obsolete or interfering with the operation of a program.
This time around the spotlight falls on parts of the Act that prohibits the "circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works", or the creation and distribution of tools that get around copyright restrictions.
The Copyright Office is looking for examples of where these measures have caused verifiable problems. It's not looking for critiques of the Act itself, which will likely go straight in the bin.
Still, narrow though it is, the consultation does represent an opportunity to move ever so slightly further towards fair use of copyrighted materials. Submissions can be sent to the US Copyright Office between November 19 and December 18 using a form on its Web site here. ®