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

User Comments: 9

Got something to say? Post a comment
hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

One word: Boycott. It's gonna have to come to that. You can only sign petitions for so long.

chuckmeister said:

Manufacturers are providing the device, carriers are simply providing a service. Once a device is purchased and is our property that should enable use to do whatever we want to it.

SCJake said:

we must be fair though. im 100% for rooting your own device, but the question is whether or not rooting said device actually hurts the service providers service significantly. IF AND ONLY IF proof of such harm is found should it be illegal, and even then not illegal, just the service provider wont support that devices action on their network. Otherwise, i paid for my droid, i pay verizon for the service, that makes me the customer, so im always right... right?

Guest said:

Honestly once you purchase said product, you as a consumer should be allowed to modify it to make it fit your needs within safety parameters. If I buy a piece of paper, I'm not told I can only use it for typing, and any other method of use is punishable by law. If I buy a car, I'm not told I have to leave it factory standard, if I put any aftermarket parts on it I would be subject to repercussions (uness said parts are illegal themselves). You're not told when you buy a home, you have to leave it as is, that any modifications within to suit your needs will subject you to criminal prosecution. Unless the consumer modifies the product or steals proprietary design with the intent to monetarily profit from such actions, allow the consumer to modify it to suit their needs. If you're a service provider, LEARN TO ADAPT. You can't force this rapidly evolving technological era to adhere to your draconic methods. Provide BETTER service, proprietary applications or free gear. This world is changing, whether you like it or not, and you MUST CHANGE in order to maintain your business with it.

Rick Rick, TechSpot Staff, said:

I really can't wrap my head around why this is such a big deal. I know Apple their ilk want to control their products and that's fine, but when I buy a device, it's mine. I bought it. I own it. I should be able to do anything I want with it.

Also, I fully accept the risks associated with jailbreaking etc... Although some of those risks are actually from Apple themselves. If anything, it ought to be illegal for Apple to make changes that purposefully interfere by bricking your phone and causing other headaches. That's far more shady to me than "hacking" a bought-and-paid-for device.

I recently jailbroke my 4S so I could use Wifi Analyzer again (It was pulled from the App Store recently because of some policy changes) and integrate Google Voice into my phone. That's all I want and I'm very pleased with the results.

If Apple would provide a way to do those things through their App Store, I would gladly pay for it. I would also accept whatever disclaimers, lack of support etc.. Apple needed to cover their butts.

And ultimately, who jailbreaks their devices? It must be a fraction of a percent of users. Before the App Store, jailbreaking was hugely liberating and useful, but once official apps matured to allow multitasking, notifications and such... jailbreaking caters to only a tiny niche of people.

It's mine. I bought it. I own it. I should be able to do anything I want with it.

Darkshadoe Darkshadoe said:

hahahanoobs said:

One word: Boycott. It's gonna have to come to that. You can only sign petitions for so long.

Nice sentiment but it will never happen. People are too caught up in the "OOO Shiney" mind state. Most people do not care if Apple tells you how and what you can do with their products as long as it plays Angry Birds. Sad but true.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

It's mine. I bought it. I own it. I should be able to do anything I want with it.
Absolutely. While it's sounds stupid, "A farmer can buy a new Cadillac, cut the roof off and then use it to haul hey from the field"

(if you've never heard of this, it's known as an Okie pickup).

While in Europe a while back, my four-band, unlocked GSM phone worked delightfully.

As the train went from A to B, I would get a text msg "Welcome to xxx service".

There wasn't any of this branding nonsense and the absence of the monopolistic practices of

domestic service (U.S.) was a delight.

If Microsoft had taken the approach "you can only install our software from our sites",

we would still be using Commodore 64's. To be fair, the fragmentation of TDSM, CDMA & GSM

are the real culprits, as the service providers have to get a return for building all that infrastructure,

BUT - - ouch, seems to me they're starting to cut their own throats.

ps: anyone needing a knife will quickly be provided the appropriate tool.

Guest said:

Funny. They all ripping people off More , more , more they wont be enough for them.

tell me if I paid almost $550 which cost to manufacturer 90 bucks to make it now they want us to dont even touch it.

HafizNafes89 HafizNafes89 said:

If rooting/jailbreaking becomes illegal, then i will stop buying smartphones altogether.

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