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While Copyright law exists to protect the intellectual rights of creators and artists, the scope of the law is limited. The intention behind the exemptions is to enable individuals to use and appreciate existing works. Provisions in the Copyright Act of 1976 allow compulsory licenses as well as fair use, and exceptions to the anti-circumvention clause in the DMCA facilitate the non-infringing use of copyrighted works. Current exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention laws include:  

  • DVDs: users can circumvent the Content Scrambling System on lawfully obtained disks to select movie segments for the purposes of criticism, comment, or educational use in documentaries on non-commercial videos. 
  • Wireless phones: users can unlock their phones to run computer program that allow the user to use legally obtained software. users can also "jailbreak" their phones in order to use an alternative service network as long as use of that network is legally acquired. 
  • Video games: users can circumvent encryptions in order to test, investigate or correct the game's security features. 
  • Dongles: users can circumvent dongles that are damaged, malfunctioning, or obsolete in order to use the legally obtained software that the dongle was intended to protect. 
  • e-books: users can unlock their ebooks to enable software to read it out loud, but only if all ebook editions of that book are so-encrypted. 

Certain sections of the 1976 Copyright act limit the scope of copyright. In some instances, your rights are limited by a "compulsory license", which permits certain limited uses of copyrighted works upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions. Another important limitation is the doctrine of "fair use" (Section 107), which holds that certain uses of copyrighted works do not infringe on the rights of the copyright holder. "Fair use" is usually invoked for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, and education (teaching, scholarship and research). There are four main points taken into consideration when determining "fair use":


  • The purpose and character of the use (e.g., is the work being used for non-profit or educational purposes, or is it being used commercially?) 
  • The nature of the copyrighted work (e.g., is it amenable to educational, critical, or news-reporting use, or even parody?) 
  • The amount and substantiality of the the work being used (e.g., is the whole work reproduced, or only a portion? Is it a black and white photocopy of a color painting, or a high quality full size and color reproduction?) 
  • The effect of the use upon potential market value of the work (e.g., will the derivative version eclipse or reduce the value of the original, or will it raise the original's value?)



This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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