61 Reforms to C-61, Day 22: TPMs – No Exception for Filtering Programs

As part of the U.S. Copyright Office's DMCA rulemaking procedure (under which it identifies non-infringing uses that are hampered by the DMCA), the Office has twice issued an exemption for circumvention of filtering software programs in order to identify the list of sites included within the program.  Filtering programs can be used to filter or block inappropriate material, yet the same programs have been subject to considerable criticism over concerns that they may be overbroad and block perfectly legitimate material.  The only way for a party to ascertain whether their site is included on the block list is to access the lists contained in the software program, a process that typically requires circumvention.

In 2000, the Copyright Office found that an exception for filtering programs was needed.  It reaffirmed the decision in 2003.  In 2006, Seth Finklestein, the primary supporter of the "censorware" exception abandoned the fight for another renewal and the exception was dropped.  The same concerns remain, however, which is why a clear exception for the circumvention of filtering programs is needed within Bill C-61. 


  1. many things to learn
    There are many things to be learned from the issues that have come out of the USA’s DCMA. This is a pretty good example, but it merely illustrates what happens when all content is locked down, and you can’t see what it’s doing without breaking the law. Or simply can’t see ever if (when) the TPMs get better.

    We could also learn that it sucks when you get monsterous laws like the DCMA. And that it sucks even worse when the same big boys who brought that in, realize that they didn’t quite attain pure total godhood, and so try again, this time without ugly little things like fair use.

    61 reforms are not enough.

  2. Crosbie Fitch says:

    How about determining infringement?
    There is another good reason to circumvent a TPM and that is to determine whether a closed file which one possesses, but to which one does not have authorised access, infringes any of one’s copyrights.

    Let us say that a movie producer’s fan site enables fans to exchange files containing clips for comment purposes, but that some fans are exchanging what appear (from their descriptions) to be entire films, but are using DRM to deny access to the site owner. Presumably the site owner may circumvent the TPMs of the files exchanged in order to check whether the files do indeed contain entire movies?

    Is there such an exemption? It sounds like it is necessary otherwise movie fans can exchange movies without the copyright holder being able to do anything about it, which would be terrible.

    See Schrödinger’s Copyright:
    [ link ]

  3. another spillover issue
    This is yet another area where copyright issues spill over into the neutral net realm.

    Any system (organization, company, spam filter, etc) that blocks access should be required to publicly list the sites (domains and/or addresses) that it blocks and there should be clear and simple procedures for challenging those blocks and having them removed when appropriate.