The Associated Press
updated 10/29/2003 7:27:18 AM ET 2003-10-29T12:27:18

The U.S. Copyright Office has opted to leave a controversial software-protection law largely in place, despite protests that it interferes with consumers’ rights to watch movies and listen to music as they wish. The Copyright Office created four narrow exemptions to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which makes it a crime to hack copy-protection measures on software, DVDs and other products.

ACADEMIC RESEARCHERS and consumer-rights activists had pushed for wider exemptions, saying it is overly protective and inhibits legitimate activities such as security research or making personal copies of digital products.

The Copyright Office said the law should not apply to lists of Web sites blocked by Internet filtering software, or video games and computer programs made for obsolete systems.

Users can also hack copy-protection systems on digital ”ebooks” in order to have them read aloud by speech-recognition software or converted into Braille, the office said.

But hacking for other purposes — such as to fast-forward through advertisements on DVDs or make personal copies of copy-protected music CDs — is still not allowed.

Several software groups praised the ruling, saying it would not interfere with their ability to prevent unauthorized copying of their products.

But one group that has been critical of the DMCA said consumers would still suffer.

“Consumers are the real losers in today’s ruling, because the librarian of Congress is ignoring the rights of nearly everyone who has purchased CDs and DVDs,” said Gwen Hinze, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco consumer-rights group.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association, an industry group known for its criticism of software giant Microsoft Corp , said the Copyright Office should have OK’d software that would allow consumers to play DVDs on alternative computer operating systems such as Linux.

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