EFF: Keep jailbreaking and rooting from becoming illegal

By on January 25, 2012, 2:30 PM

Back in July of 2010, the US Library of Congress added several critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that effectively made it legal to jailbreak, root, unlock or in any way hack a smartphone as long as the action wasn’t being carried out to circumvent copy protection.

The ruling was a clear win for consumer rights but it could be taken away soon, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The EFF reports that the exemption is due to expire this year and is calling on people to make their voice heard not only to renew the exemption, but to also expand it to cover tablets and video games consoles -- which apparently wasn't covered before. Otherwise, it would become illegal to install custom software on Android or iPhone devices -- among others -- and leave users open to lawsuits over these fair use activities.

To support the exemption renewal you can contact the US Copyright Office and explain why jailbreaking is important to you. Here are some suggestions from the EFF on what to include:

  • Which jailbreaking exemption are you supporting—smartphones/tablets, video game consoles, or both?
  • What's your background (i.e., developer, hobbyist, academic, independent researcher, user, etc.)?
  • What device do you want to ensure you have the legal authority to jailbreak?
  • Explain why you want to jailbreak this device. What limitations do you face otherwise? Is there software you couldn't run, computing capabilities you wouldn't have, cool things you couldn't do, etc.?
  • If you're a developer, did an online application store or console manufacturer reject your app or game? If so, what reasons did they give?

Comments are due in by no later than 5:00 pm EST. on February 10, 2012.

Although smartphone manufacturers have taken a more relaxed stance on this issue, acknowledging it's something only a minority of users do and in some cases even releasing official unlock tools, ensuring that the act of jailbreaking does not become illegal is imperative to maintaing a healthy jailbreak community.

Image credit: Slavoljub Pantelic / Shutterstock

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