DMCA 1201 exemption panel discussion

During the 2020 triennial DMCA section 1201 review process, from the anti-circumvention provisions, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion on the need for exemptions hosted by the EFF, iFixit and Public Knowledge to discuss their filings and my work on reverse engineering and extending device firmware, like Magic Lantern. You can watch the panel discussion video, with moderator Kerry Sheehan and other members Meredith Rose, Cara Galiano, Kyle Wiens and Matt Zieminski. The Register wrote a review of the panel and right to repair.

Here is a transcript of my remarks (starting at 13:16):

Several years ago I was frustrated with the limitations in functionality of a camera that I owned, and as a curious hacker type, I chose to reverse engineer the firmware to try to adapt it to my needs. Along the way I ended up creating an open source community of developers who write new extensions and make modifications that run in the camera, alongside the vendor firmware embedded in the device.

This Magic Lantern firmware now has hundreds of thousands of users across the world who are able to make their cameras more suited for their own needs. These include new software features like uncompressed video recording or high dynamic range video, and interopability with external devices for things like remote control, or non-standard lenses and flashes. They are also able to work around hardware problems like broken buttons by remapping the functions to different inputs, or broken screens by drawing information elsewhere, as well as make the devices more accessible by adjusting fonts and adding audio cues.

Since then I've built custom firmware for a wide range of devices, from lightbulbs to laptops, to make them work the the way I want and to interoperate with other systems that I use. I always release these modifications as open source for others who might have similar needs, or for people who have totally different needs and want to build on my initial work. It's my firm belief that everyone should be able to customize and repair the devices that they own, which includes modifications to both the hardware and the firmware, and especially publishing information on how to do so, so that others are able to do the same.

I'd like to thank iFixit and the EFF for hosting this event, and their work on establishing DMCA exemptions during the previous triennial process. I'm looking forward to this discussion and learning from the other panel members.

2020 Reverse engineering Talks

Last update: December 22, 2020