Copyright Office Releases Report on Software-Enabled Consumer Products
Issue No. 646 - December 15, 2016
The U.S. Copyright Office today released its report “Software-Enabled Consumer Products.” The report follows a year-long process, during which the Office studied how copyright law interacts with software-enabled consumer products, from cars, to refrigerators, to cellphones, to thermostats, and more. Requested by the Senate Judiciary Committee, the report explores the various legal doctrines that apply to this subset of software, which is increasingly present in everyday life, including important copyright doctrines such as fair use, merger, scènes à faire, first sale, and the section 117 exemptions. The report focuses on specific issues raised in the public comments and hearings, including how copyright law affects licensing, resale, repair and tinkering, security research, and interoperability.
The Copyright Office’s report found that current legal doctrines support a wide range of legitimate uses of the embedded software in consumer products while also recognizing the importance of copyright protection to the creation and distribution of innovative products. The report provides a thorough review of the existing legal framework with respect to software embedded in consumer products, but it does not recommend legislative changes at this time.
The full report and executive summary are available on the Copyright Office’s website at https://copyright.gov/policy/software/.