Does this link mean "educational use" gets a free pass on circumventing copy protection.

17 U.S. Code § 1201 - Circumvention of copyright protection systems

Specifically this section.

(d)Exemption for Nonprofit Libraries, Archives, and Educational Institutions.— (1) A nonprofit library, archives, or educational

institution which gains access to a commercially exploited copyrighted work solely in order to make a good faith determination of whether to acquire a copy of that work for the sole purpose of engaging in conduct permitted under this title shall not be in violation of subsection (a)(1)(A). A copy of a work to which access has been gained under this paragraph— (A) may not be retained longer than necessary to make such good faith determination; and (B) may not be used for any other purpose.

In the answer explain/translate the legalese in terms that an average person could understand please.

1 Answer 1


"Educational use" does not get a free pass on the law against circumventing copy-protection. First, "educational use" is extremely broad and could include "to post on Stackexchange", or "so that I can learn something". The cited clause specifically limits this exception to "A nonprofit library, archives, or educational institution" – the library must be nonprofit, and the archive or educational institution may also need to be nonprofit (until the courts fix the ambiguity in the scope of "nonprofit"). Second, the circumvention has to be very limited: the purpose must be only to evaluate the work, to see if you want to legally acquire it. So a nonprofit library can peek into a work to see if they want to buy a copy, but you may not. The only thing the library can do is evaluate the work for legal acquisition, and they have to get rid of the pirated copy once they've made the decision.

Additionally (other parts of the subsection say), they can't do this is there is an equivalent legal copy available (e.g. if there's a print book available, they can't hack into the e-book to "determine" whether they want the book), and w.r.t. libraries and archives they must be open to the public.

  • They are only allowed to circumvent copy-protection to see if it is of interesest. So, you're saying that the library still has to purchase whatever they are evaluating. Am I understanding that right? Nov 15, 2017 at 21:11
  • Yes, either purchase or negotiate for a free copy, if they decide to acquire it.
    – user6726
    Nov 15, 2017 at 21:24

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