Library of Congress Gives Thumbs-Up to Jailbreaking Tablets

Jailbreaking legally purchased tablets, hacking your own smart car and circumventing software defenses for security research have all -- under certain circumstances -- gotten the go-ahead from the Library of Congress' Copyright Office. The exemptions to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) were spelled out in an order issued yesterday by acting librarian David Mao.

The decision by the Library of Congress (LoC) to specify legal exemptions to the technological controls established by the DMCA is part of review undertaken by the LoC every 36 months to entertain proposed exemptions to the law. In 2012, for example, the LoC approved jailbreaking for smartphones but not tablets.

Enacted by Congress in 1998, the DMCA makes it illegal to circumvent a wide range of security measures used to protect copyrighted digital materials, including computer software, streaming videos, smartphone apps and vehicle software.

Digital rights organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology welcomed the latest list of exemptions, although they also noted some problems with the library's decision. They criticized, for example, a 12-month delay in enabling an exemption for computer program security research.

Public Input Determines Exemptions

While the DMCA -- in particular, section 1201 -- makes certain types of unauthorized access to copyrighted digital material illegal, it also allows the LoC to adopt limited exemptions in a rule-making process every three years. This latest order from the library is the sixth one spelling out exemptions to the law.

"[W]hile section 1201 has played a critical role in the development of secure platforms for the digital distribution of copyrighted works, it is equally evident that the prohibition on circumvention impacts a wide range of consumer activities that have little to do with the consumption of creative content or the core concerns of copyright," the LoC noted in its...

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