Robin Dale, who sits in the cube adjacent to me, alerted me to some wonderful news for the digital preservation community: Library of Congress just issued “Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works,” which in essence make it legal for libraries and archives to disable “technological measures that control access to copyrighted works” in order to allow digital preservation activities to be performed on said works. Here’s the exemption of interest:
2. Computer programs and video games distributed in formats that have become obsolete and that require the original media or hardware as a condition of access, when circumvention is accomplished for the purpose of preservation or archival reproduction of published digital works by a library or archive. A format shall be considered obsolete if the machine or system necessary to render perceptible a work stored in that format is no longer manufactured or is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace.
Among all the cheering and jubilation, I’ll have one persnickety aside: I can’t help but wonder why museums weren’t included in the language – they face the same issue as libraries and archives when trying to preserve works of variable media art, and should by all means enjoy the same rights. I’d be interested in hearing from those of you better versed in the ways of the law whether this is a technicality (i.e. museums are effectually covered), or whether (forgive the pun) museums are exempted from the exemption.