EFF Wins, Apple Loses, Jailbreaking is Now Legal

Every three years, the U.S. Copyright Office convenes to consider exemptions to the DMCA's ban on circumvention of "technical protection measures." On Monday, the EFF, which had submitted three such exemptions for this go-round of the triennial process, announced that all three exemptions had been granted, meaning for one thing, that jailbreaking iPhones is now officially legal.

Apple had said a long time ago that it considered jailbreaking iPhones illegal, but there was no legal basis in either direction. This exemption now means Apple can't take any legal action against jailbreakers, and it also would appear to free those rooting Android phones to do their work as well.

The EFF also applied to have unlocking cell phones to move from one carrier to another exempted as well, and that was also approved by the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress.

Finally, the EFF wanted an exemption granted for those who remix videos. In this case, the EFF wanted protections for those who rip DVDs and create new, non-commercial works for posting on YouTube for the purpose of commentary or criticism. At the same time, an exemption was granted for educators wanting to rip DVDs for educational uses.

Other DMCA exemptions granted by the Copyright office include:
  • An exemption for dongle-protected programs in which the dongle is no longer manufactured or if a replacement or repair is no longer available.
  • An exemption for copy protection on video games in order to investigate or fix security flaws
  • An exemption for e-books when there are no editions at all with accessibility methods such as read-aloud or screen readers
iPhone users shouldn't get too excited, though. While the decisions mean that no legal recourse can be taken against jailbreakers or unlockers, it doesn't say that Apple or AT&T are bound by law to give you a jailbreak or unlock. No, that will remain the realms of hackers, and you'll have to wait every time a new ROM comes out for a new jailbreak, as well.

It also doesn't mean that Starcraft 2, which launches on Tuesday, immediately has a security flaw that just has to be fixed right away, now does it?
Tags:  iPhone, EFF, Jailbreak, DMCA