Copyright Series – Part 3 or “DRM”

Let’s talk about DRM.

Digital Rights Management, or DRM for short, can be generally defined as a system that restricts how one is able to view, save or share digitally acquired information. Much like the now ubiquitous “Terms of Use” agreement required to use most digital services, DRM is a way that publishers can control who, how and where material is being viewed.

DRMs can be particularly problematic for libraries. Librarians are being put in the position of either breaking the electronic locks in order to exercise their legal rights under the Fair use Exemptions or letting a company determine how best to serve library patrons. Fortunately, those put in this predicament now have some recourse. You might recall that in October there was mention of upcoming opportunities for public comment. That day has come! The Copyright Office published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  <Proposed rule: >

Here are a few highlights of the proposed rules:

  • Space & Format shifting. “This proposed class would allow circumvention of access controls on lawfully made and acquired literary works distributed electronically for the purpose of non-commerical space-shifting or format shifting. This exemption has been requested for literary works distributed electronically in e-books.” (Proposed Class 10: Literary Works Distributed Electronically—SpaceShifting and Format-Shifting, 79 Fed. Reg. 73856, pg.73863 (B) (2).)  This would allow for the stripping of DRM or reformatting of content, for purposes of “backup copies” and other (Legal) purposes. This issue came up before in 2006 and was not adopted. Support and good examples might help it pass this time.
  • Jailbreaking-Dedicated E-book readers. “This proposed class would permit the jailbreaking of dedicated e-book readers to allow those devices to run lawfully acquired software that is otherwise prevented from running.” (Proposed Class 18: Jailbreaking—Dedicated E-Book Readers, 79 Fed. Reg. 73856, pg.73867 (3).) This would return some freedom of choice to consumers and library systems in how to purchase and read e-books. It could potentially reduce some of the administrative friction of getting an e-book to a patron. Imagine reading a book purchased on Amazon via a Nook rather than a Kindle or vice versa.

Re-reading the preamble, prior to commenting, is encouraged. The required formatting is very specific and it might be best to use the long or short form guidelines provided by the Copyright office.  <Link is here:>

Each of us is in a different and unique position to provide insight, guidance and advocate for our users. Go forth! February 6, 2015, is the deadline for comments.

Part 4 of our Copyright Series is forthcoming.

by Rachel Englander

2 thoughts on “Copyright Series – Part 3 or “DRM”

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