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Library of Congress makes jailbreaking legal for fair use

updated 12:25 pm EDT, Mon July 26, 2010

US says jailbreaks, hacks OK when purpose is legal

The Library of Congress today ruled that breaking copy protection is legal on many devices, including phones, for the sake of fair use. The decision specifically allows smartphone owners to jailbreak and root their phones to run legal third-party apps. It similarly greenlights unlocking the phone for use on another network that allows the practice.

Other exemptions also have significant impact on media. The move would let schools and others to break the CSS encryption on DVDs to use short clips for documentaries and other not-for-profit efforts. Video game owners can crack copy protection to study or fix security holes when it doesn't create an exploit by itself. Security dongles, such as USB sticks, that aren't made anymore or easily repaired can also be cracked.

Pressure exerted on Amazon to remove text-to-speech from the Kindle has also been thwarted, as the exemptions would let owners break DRM barring the feature or any other conversion to an accessible format.

The decision could almost immediately have an effect on Apple, Microsoft and any other smartphone OS designer whose platform prevents the installation of outside apps. While it would not force them to automatically allow software from beyond the App Store or Windows Phone Marketplace, it would prevent them from taking legal action against jailbreakers or app developers that aren't violating any laws. It could additionally prevent AT&T from taking legal action to stop customers from rooting Android phones to bypass its artificial ban on non-Market titles.

None of the involved companies has yet to comment on or contest the Library of Congress decision.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. mherbson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2005

    -2

    And this is different how?

    "The decision could almost immediately have an effect on Apple, Microsoft and any other smartphone OS designer whose platform prevents the installation of outside apps. While it would not force them to automatically allow software from beyond the App Store or Windows Phone Marketplace, it would prevent them from taking legal action against jailbreakers or app developers that aren't violating any laws."

    As far as I know, Apple hasn't taken legal action against anyone for installing outside apps on an iPhone, iPod, or iPad. Can anyone cite a legal case where Apple has done that? If not, then the ruling has no immediate effect on Apple.

  1. tsmelker

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2006

    -3

    A slippery slope to be on...

    your comment

  1. burger

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Sep 2000

    +4

    Terms of Use

    Any company can still deny warranty service for a jail broken phone. Making it legal doesn't change that.

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2004

    +1

    comment title

    Congress had specifically allowed unlocking phones as an exemption to the original DMCA.

    However that exemption expired last year - which didn't make it illegal, it was just without the specific exemption greenlighting the practice, it was now a murky, unsettled part of the law.

    Now the Library of Congress has once again specified the exemption.

    It never made a big difference in practice - those who want to unlock the phone do - most users don't want to bother with the technical hurdles, however.

    Since nothing prevents apple from constantly thwarting the unlock - which they will continue to do.

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2004

    -3

    @burger - as a practical matter, that isn't the is

    A lot of people misunderstand phone unlocking - because the headlines are someone buys a phone on contract, unlocks it, and somehow makes a big profit.

    That's not what actually happens. If you buy a phone on a contract, say for $199 and resell it for $800 - but you signed up for a contract that will cost you $2400 over the life of the contract, you haven't made any money at all - you've lost a lot.

    What this is actually about, is after your two years are up on your contract, you have a phone you'd like to sell, and you have a marketplace for used phones, and people would like to buy it - for use on another cellular network. There is no warranty, the phone is long out of warranty.

    Like all the original iPhone 2g's that are long since - off contract. Can you unlock them and use them on T-mobile? Answer: Of course.

    Apple can't control the phone long after the contract has expired - and threaten someone with a felony if they use a phone they own to sign up with t-mobile.

    That should be common sense, but frankly it's not, and even if Apple hasn't ever filed such a lawsuit (which they couldn't since the exemption has always been there) it doesn't require Apple filing a lawsuit, for people to be afraid of Apple - they are known for being litigious and suing their customers.

    And as long as people have some kind of impression that this sort of thing is illegal, they'll be afraid to do it. But buck up - it's not illegal for you to use the phone that you bought and own, with another carrier.

  1. Flying Meat

    Junior Member

    Joined: Jan 2007

    0

    re: "they are known for

    being litigious and suing their customers."

    Really? I was not under that impression at all. Suing other companies to protect I.P., for sure. I can't recall seeing Apple sue it's customers. Maybe for breaking the OS X install license agreement (hackintosh?), but I can't actually recall that either, with regard to customers.

    I think you pulled that one out of your... er,.. hat.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +3

    @Jonathan

    That's not what actually happens. If you buy a phone on a contract, say for $199 and resell it for $800 - but you signed up for a contract that will cost you $2400 over the life of the contract, you haven't made any money at all - you've lost a lot.

    Except with all the whining, all the people have to do is wait 2 or 3 months, cancel their $2400 contract with ATT and pay a measly $200 or so in ETF costs (until they raise them, since everyone believes ATT is paying around $300+ subsidy for an iphone).

    Or they get said contract, then stick said SIM into their old crappy iPhone 3G which they have to pay that price for anyway to use...

  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2008

    +4

    In other news...

    ...it's also legal for Apple to continue to lock out jailbroken devices with updates to iTunes.

    Legal vs. Legal -- the smackdown is on!

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