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The U.S. Copyright Office has performed its triennial review of exceptions to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Officials have most notably determined jailbreaking smartphones (but not tablets) remains legal, unlocking phones is legal -- but only with your carrier's blessings -- and copying DVDs is still not covered under fair use, thanks mostly to that tricksy bit of weak encryption still employed by most distributors.
As mentioned above, when it comes to jailbreaking, smartphones are still perfectly legal to tinker with. Where this anomalous exception falls short though, is pretty much anything else: tablets, e-readers and game consoles. It's worth noting in 2010, officials also deemed jailbreaking to be legal on smartphones.
Regulators reckon that the DRM used to protect e-books and video games trumps full "software interoperability" (read: freedom to use it how you'd like) because the production of such titles is labor and resource intensive. This is in contrast to apps, intellectual property which the gaming industry believes isn't as valuable (i.e. less investment and effort to create). In part because apps are supposedly less valuable, regulators conceded jailbreaking is okay on phones but not game consoles. Tablets and e-readers also remain off-limits, due in part to the protection of e-books.
Of course, allowing owners to jailbreak their iPhone (i.e. smartphone) but not their iPad (i.e. tablet) sounds somewhat nonsensical, but the omission of a tablet exception seems driven by the failure to properly define what a "tablet" is. It looks like regulators want to wait this one out, admitting they'd rather not make a blanket decision regarding such a rapidly evolving device.
The idea of software on a user's phone being "licensed" to them comes up as a reason to prohibit unlocking. Software is "licensed" to its users with restrictions, limitations of use and so on. That's fascinating logic though, since officials decided it doesn't work this way with jailbreaking. Go figure.
Incidentally, DIY phone unlockers are also likely to be disappointed. Although unlocking "legacy" phones will remain legal in practice, unlocking new phones purchased after October 28 this year will require explicit permission from the carrier. Fortunately, AT&T and others provide legitimate methods to evade carrier lock-in, but users will find themselves at the mercy of their carrier's fine print (e.g. like being out of contract).
For those who don't know -- unlike jailbreaking which essentially "unlocks" operating system restrictions -- actually unlocking a phone frees it purely from carrier restrictions (i.e. being artificially bound to a single carrier's network).
Interestingly, while regulators found the wholesale duplication of DVDs to be a disagreeable act, copyright officials did write that users may still legally use "short portions of the motion pictures for the purpose of criticism or comment". However, without an official declaration of precisely how long a "short portion" should be, there's a bumper crop of ambiguity here for fair use supporters and detractors alike.
Readers may check out the entire synopsis of the review here which touches on subjects in far more detail, citing arguments responsible for their decisions. The next review will likely be in 2015.
The iPhone 4S looks identical to last year's model but comes in a new 64GB flavor and upgrades the camera to include an 8-megapixel sensor with improved low-light performance and 1080p video capture. In terms of performance the new iPhone is reportedly up to 2x faster and is also capable of running on faster HSPA+ networks, reaching theoretical download speeds of up to 14.4Mbps.
Amazon sent a wave crashing through the mobile industry when it announced its Kindle Fire would land with a price of $199. This is likely the best value in a tablet on the market, and will make tablet computing accessible to many people that either couldn't afford an iPad or couldn't tolerate Honeycomb tablets.
The Google Nexus 7 has the distinction of being the first device to run the Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" operating system. It measures 198.5mm x 120mm x 10.45mm in size, weighs 340g, and features a 7-inch IPS display that is protected by scratch-resistant glass. The Nexus sports a 1280 x 800 pixel display. It runs a quad-core Tegra 3 processor and 1GB of RAM, it also comes in 2 versions: 8GB and 16GB capacities.
The Apple iPad (3rd-gen) includes a Retina Display operating at a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536. Powering the new iPad is a dual-core A5X processor with quad-core graphics, it also gets upgraded optics in the form of a 5MP backside illuminated sensor that features a 5-element lens, IR filter and ISP built into the A5X chip. Apple claims The new iPad is good for 10 hours of battery life and nine hours when using 4G LTE.
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