This is huge: jailbreaking iPhones and other electronic devices to run software unauthorized by the companies that make them is no longer a criminal act.
Every three years, the Library of Congress reviews the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and their latest review, which among other things protects jailbreakers, appears to be a major victory for free speech proponents who find the copyright law too restrictive.
The decision to allow the practice commonly known as “jailbreaking” is one of a handful of new exemptions from a 1998 federal law that prohibits people from bypassing technical measures that companies put on their products to prevent unauthorized uses. The Library of Congress’ Copyright Office reviews and authorizes exemptions every three years to ensure that the law does not prevent certain non-infringing use of copyright-protected material.
The key excerpt of the ruling, via Engadget:
Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset.
Note, however, that this doesn’t mean Apple has to be particularly accommodating to people who jailbreak iPhones or iPads: they can still put their devices on lock by default, void the warranties of jailbreakers, and otherwise make things difficult for people who try to thwart their strongly expressed wish to put their products in a walled garden. And as lawyer Michael Fleming points out, “[the] new rules would avoid DMCA liability, but wouldn’t necessarily overcome the contract you’ve entered into with Apple.”
Another big shift: people who remix videos for noncommercial purposes and post them to sites like YouTube, who were previously vulnerable to DMCA charges, are now officially protected.
EFF also won a groundbreaking new protection for video remix artists currently thriving on Internet sites like YouTube. The new rule holds that amateur creators do not violate the DMCA when they use short excerpts from DVDs in order to create new, noncommercial works for purposes of criticism or comment if they believe that circumvention is necessary to fulfill that purpose. Hollywood has historically taken the view that “ripping” DVDs is always a violation of the DMCA, no matter the purpose.