Recently the Librarian of Congress released the new rules on Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). On Twitter and on many blogs, the main focus of attention was on new rules that now allow people to jailbreak their iPhones. As Jonathan Zittrain explains in this interview, the rule on smart phones is a "key, symbolic victory for the open campaign-- but in many ways, a legal paper tiger." (In the first few moments of the video Zittrain provides a good overview of the DMCA.)
A new rule on using video in the classroom received far less publicity, but for educators should be just as newsworthy. The new rules allow "college and university professors" and "college and university film and media studies students" to incorporate "short portions [emphasis mine] of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment." This is excellent news, as the previous rule granted this exemption only to film and media studies professors. The previous rule was much too narrow given that film and television has so many educational uses across academic disciplines. I appreciate that the new rule is more in tune with the realities of teaching, and that conversations about managing copyright now can be a little more straightforward.
On the other hand, the new rule simply seems to affirm what normally would be fair use if not for that additional layer of digital rights management. Moreover, the new rule on student uses of media once again seems too narrow. Now that all instructors are included, educational uses of motion pictures on DVDs is restricted to film and media studies students. This is baffling to me, especially when I hear about innovative student media assignments across the University.