Today, the Library of Congress released a new set of exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Among these exemptions was something perhaps of great interest to iPhone owners: the ability to break digital locks on the device in order to use (legally obtained) software not approved by Apple, a practice commonly known as jailbreaking. Other exemptions include:
• allow owners of used cell phones to break access controls on their phones in order to switch wireless carriers.
• allow people to break technical protections on video games to investigate or correct security flaws.
• allow college professors, film students and documentary filmmakers to break copy-protection measures on DVDs so they can embed clips for educational purposes, criticism, commentary and noncommercial videos.
• allow computer owners to bypass the need for external security devices called dongles if the dongle no longer works and cannot be replaced.
The decision likely occurred due to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's efforts in this regard and Apple's reponding attempts to declare jailbreaking illegal under the DMCA early last year.
Now the question is, will this decision change anything? At this point it's hard to say. All this legislation does is make the act of "jailbreaking" okay from a legal standpoint. It is still well within Apple's right to deny support for devices that have gone through the process. However, it does allow those who engineer jailbreaking software to come work out of obscurity and perhaps increase development to create a more pleasant and safer experience. Aside from this, we'll have to wait and see how Apple reacts to this development.
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