Updated DMCA legalizes jailbreaking, DVD ripping and more

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In a landmark decision, the US Library of Congress has added several critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), legalizing cell phone jailbreaking and more. The changes come at the behest of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and will protect "jailbreakers, unlockers, and vidders" from being sued over non-infringing fair use activities. The exemptions include the following:

  • Permission for cell phone owners to break access controls on their phones in order to switch wireless carriers or "jailbreak" their device.
  • Permission to break technical protections on video games to investigate or correct security flaws.
  • Permission for 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.
  • Permission to enable an e-book's read-aloud function or use a screen reader with the e-book, even when built-in access controls prevent this.
  • Permission for computer owners to bypass the need for external security devices called dongles if the dongle no longer works and cannot be replaced.

Those stipulations undoubtedly come at the disapproval of companies like Apple, which has sought to prevent iPhone owners from running unapproved code. While permitting the installation of unauthorized software is surprising enough, we're more shocked that amateur video creators can now (legally) bypass DVD copy protection and use the media to create non-commercial works. The EFF called such videos a "powerful art form" and said people posting remixed content online shouldn't have to worry about breaking the law. You can read the full rulemaking order here (PDF).


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