The much-vaunted Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PDF, Wikipedia), passed in 1998, was designed to criminalize the circumvention of copyrighted material, while taking the load off ISP’s and redirecting liability to the “incriminating” individual.
Last week, on Thanksgiving Day!, the AP released this article outlining 6 exemptions written into the DMCA (EFF posted this the day before). Brief summaries of these exemptions can be read at http://www.copyright.gov/1201/. The Copyright Office meets to review the DMCA every three years, and previously approved exemptions in 2000 and in 2003, not all of which have been renewed.
Some of these exemptions reflect a loosening of some of the more constricting titles of the DMCA and most notably, fair-use and accessibility are provided with broader, less limiting definitions.
— Breaking CSS encryption to make excerpts and compilations from DVDs, especially for educational purposes, is now more likely to pass the test for fair use.
— The sight- and hearing-impaired are now allowed to break DRM-locks on eBooks to access reading tools and software.
— It is now legal to unlock cell phones!
— Circumvention is now officially permitted for the testing, researching, or correcting of security flaws from “rootkits” or other access control measures.
Ed Felten goes further into detail on the 6 exemptions in this commentary. Cory also goes more in-depth on the 6 exemptions at BoingBoing as does Karen at KSL News and Bill at PublicKnowledge.
More background: The Evil That is DMCA.