Great, Great News For WCYDWT Enthusiasts

Statement of the Librarian of Congress Relating to Section 1201 Rulemaking:

Motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired and that are protected by the Content Scrambling System when circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment.

It was getting to be a huge pain propping my Hi-8 camcorder up on a tripod in front of my TV just to grab clips from NBC comedies. [via]

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. The letter may be limited, but the spirit is pretty great. Of course, what we really need is Lawrence Lessig to co-serve as the head of the FCC and next Chief Justice.

    That said, didn’t Educational Fair Use cover much of this already? Also, any thoughts on using something like KeepVid and QuickTime to edit clips?

  2. Fair Use gave you permission to play the clip, say, by renting or buying the DVD and bringing it into class, queuing up the scene, and pressing play. Up until now, only college professors were allowed to bypass DVD encryption to rip a digital copy of that clip for classroom use. Now anybody can. Which changes my SOP not even a little bit, but it’s nice to find myself sheltered just a little bit more by this legal umbrella.

  3. I’m certainly not an expert, but my reading of the details of the new ruling is that is does *not* apply to K-12 teachers: “The Register agrees with NTIA that proponents of a class extending to teachers and students in the K-12 setting have not proven their case.” This quote is from page 65 of the detailed recommendations to the Library of Congress from the Register of Copyrights:

    I attended a copyright presentation at ISTE 2010 which was good and referenced “The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education:” I left that presentation with the understanding that Fair Use rights does not trump the DMCA.

    I hope either my interpretation is incorrect or this changes soon since I can’t imagine queuing several DVDs to show various clips when introducing a new topic in physics class since I don’t have a Hi-8 camcorder :)

  4. @Geoff

    That’s very helpful. Thanks for clarifying Educational Fair Use vs. the DCMA. With the former, it’s my understanding that it applies only to in-person teaching. Do you know whether there’s an implicit agreement that, with new technologies, it extends to online learning as well?

    I often embed clips from YouTube and other sources in Mathalicious lessons, and am concerned that I’m not concerned enough. At the same time, any thoughts on the marketing aspect of this? Have you seen a company actually go after someone who’s using their copyrighted materials for legitimate educational purposes? Seems like it might not be worth the risk of potentially looking like a jerk, no?

  5. Karim, US Copyright Law itself has explicit exemptions for education in Section 110(1) and 110(2); the latter may apply to online learning:

    Fair Use is a different part of the copyright act and is not limited to educational use or even non-commercial use. The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education explains Fair Use much better than I can:

    Again, while I’m certainly not a Fair Use expert, some of the key considerations for Fair Use to apply that were presented at ISTE are that the use is transformative and the societal benefit is greater than the cost to the copyright holder. According to the presentation there has never been an educational-focused Fair Use challenge. Stanford maintains a list of Fair Use cases:

    Some works provide alternative licenses, such as Creative Commons, which explicitly grants varying permissions for use:

  6. @Michael Paul Goldenberg,

    I wouldn’t go so far as helping you rip dvds, because I am still unsure of the legalities and use; however, I have a quick little tutorial on ripping online streaming video on my site @

    Also, I will be posting on how to get anything streaming using Safari’s Activity Window feature soon.

    Thanks Dan for a great discussion!

    Jeff @TeacherThink

  7. Karim: Likewise, Dan, did you ever get any pushback when you posted the “How I Met Your Mother” clip (for instance)?

    No pushback. YouTube just yanked the video.

    I get where you’re going, though, and my sense is that these are really deep, uncharted waters. In my fourth question from this interview, I asked Alex Grodd, Better Lesson’s founder, what he would do if Twentieth Century Fox invoked DMCA and said, “Hey, take down this How I Met Your Mother Clip.” YouTube does that, no questions asked. They have an appeals process which is effective for people who were legitimately remixing (or criticizing or adding value to) some footage flagged automatically by the DMCA autodetect.

    What am I supposed to say about the HIMYM clip, though? “I’m using it for an interesting math lesson over on this blog.” It’s legitimate Fair Use on my site, but YouTube totally doesn’t care, and I totally respect that. There’s no upside for them.

    My question is this: if I uploaded that same video to BetterLesson (not sure if they’re accepting video yet) and surrounded it with all this Fair Use-enabling lesson content, and Fox made the same request, would BetterLesson go to bat for me? Would it go to court for me?

    Michael Paul Goldenberg For the newbies to such tech tricks, can Dan or someone post a link to something useful that will explain how to do the ripping?

    Handbrake. It’s essential.

  8. has something about how YouTube approaches copyright laws in a speech by an employee from the company, which seem to be legal.

  9. FYI: not looking to rip entire DVDs (my son appears to know but it’s not something I care about. Just wanted to know how to extract something for fair use in an educational setting, in class, on a blog, etc. Will check the recommended resources.

  10. Now if only they would get some more sense knocked into them and make it legal to bypass encryption for all fair uses… (Or better yet, repeal the anti-circumvention clause all together.)

  11. Many people don’t realize this, but the DMCA does not have an exception for fair use. Standard “copyright infringement” law does have exemptions for fair use, but the DMCA (which forbids circumventing copy protection) does not. Fair use is a defense to a claim of copyright infringement, but fair use is not a defense against a claim of DMCA violation. You can violate the DMCA even without infringing copyright law. In this respect, the DMCA goes much further than standard copyright law.

    Yeah, I know: DMCA is lousy law. But what can you do? Congress passed the thing, and the rest of us have to live with it.