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CCCC’s IP Caucus Member, Martine Courant Rife of Lansing Community College, testifies at the DMCA hearings at the Library of Congress

In early May, 2009, Martine Courant Rife, JD, PhD, a writing professor at Lansing Community College, a recent graduate of the Doctoral Program in Rhetoric and Writing at Michigan State University, and an active member of the CCCC’s IP Caucus, flew to Washington D.C. to testify in the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) tri-annual rulemaking hearings. In her testimony, Rife drew on the study she’d recently completed which examined the ways in which copyright law did/did not influence digital composing practices. She specifically looked at whether copyright law chilled the speech of U.S. writing students and their teachers. In her D.C. testimony, Rife requested from the copyright office, an exemption from the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA for educators and their students, specifically composition teachers and students. The exemption Rife outlined for the rulemaking panel, would permit both writing teachers and their students to circumvent the CSS encryption that comes standard with most DVD discs. Circumvention would allow teachers and students to take clips of popular movies and other media in order to teach, and create remix writing such as cultural critiques via the montage or remix. Many other educational stakeholders appeared at the hearings and in support of an educational exemption, as did many representatives of corporate media stakeholders such as the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). Corporate media stakeholders offered counter-arguments to the educational community’s request for an educational exemption.

A existing educational exemption is set to expire once the Register of Copyright’s final recommendations are issued this year. At the 2006 hearings, University of Pennsylvania film studies Prof. Pete DeCherney successfully argued for the adoption of the following exemption, specific only to “film studies” teachers:

“Audiovisual works included in the educational library of a college or university’s film or media studies department, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of making compilations of portions of those works for educational use in the classroom by media studies or film professors.”

Rife and a number of other educational stakeholders argued for an expansion of DeCherney’s 2006 exemption.

The D.C. hearings endured for three days and were followed by an extended written question and answer period during the summer months. Hearings were also held in Palo Alto, California.

While the Register of Copyright’s formal Recommendations for possible educational exemptions to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions were due at the end of October, 2009, the U.S. Copyright Office announced that it was taking an extension in making its final decision. The recommendations, which will determine whether or not an exemption for educators from the harsh anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA will be permitted, should be issued any day. Please watch the Inbox postings for further information on this issue.

For information in general on the DMCA hearings, or to review Rife’s testimony or her filed responses, please visit http://www.copyright.gov/1201/. Any additional questions can be directed to Dr. Rife.

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