Breaking DRM on DVDs for fair use is now legal.

Breaking DRM on DVDs for fair use is now legal.

The EFF has won a case allowing for exemptions under the DMCA for some big standards of tech and internet culture. We reported on the first: jailbreaking and unlocking phones is now considered legal.

The Library of Congress has also exemptions so content creators can remix portions of DVDs with impunity. Previously, Big Content had lobbied that ripping DRM’ed movies to do this violated the DMCA’s anti-circumvention clause. This ruling coincides with a judge’s reading of the DMCA which came out on Friday, saying that breaking DRM is just fine so long as you don’t intend to do anything illegal with the liberated content. So that ruling is now official US code.

Let’s get something straight right away: this does not mean people can just start uploading any old clip to YouTube without potentially getting in trouble. What has come out of this case is that breaking DRM for the purpose of remixing content is legal only when it falls under fair use. So uploading an entire movie? Still illegal. But uploading a fair use clip from “Downfall” and subtitling it so it looks like Hitler is raving about beer? That’s ok.

What is still an issue is fair use. It is illegal under American copyright law to use someone else’s content without permission unless your usage is deemed fair. The two biggest fair use cases are parody and commentary (that video above counts as the former). So you’ll still need to be able to make a case that your work, for example, constitutes a parody. It just won’t be illegal for you to break DRM to show off your work.

Read the full press release from the EFF here.

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