‘Jailbreaking’ Exemption to DMCA Expires Soon — EFF Pushes to Ensure Jailbreaking Remains Legal

January 26, 2012

The exception to the DMCA that allows jailbreaking and rooting is about to expire.

The act of jailbreaking or rooting smartphones may once again become illegal, as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemption set in place back in July 2010 by the Copyright Office is set to expire soon.

According to the exemption, jailbreaking an iOS device or rooting an Android device is perfectly legal as long as it doesn’t circumvent copyright. Apple, a public advocate which strives to keep a closed, secure platform, wasn’t keen on the ruling, and even indicated that jailbreaking would still void any official Apple warranty. Like Apple, some device manufacturers still claim that jailbreaking violates Section 1201 of the DMCA, which carries stiff penalties.

So what does that mean for consumers if the exemption runs out? “Modifying a device to run independent software – known as jailbreaking – is important to programmers, enthusiasts, and users,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation states.

Essentially users wouldn’t be able to get rid of the bloatware-ridden version of Android and replace it with a clean, untainted version. It would mean that iPhone and iPod Touch users wouldn’t be able to download and install apps released outside Apple’s prison walls. Downloading modified Android ROMs would again be considered as a crime. Many developers may even lose their jobs.

“The recent download and usage statistics which relate to the new Absinthe jailbreak tool clearly show that jailbreaking is not only still popular, but is a thriving and expanding community,” The Redmond Pie reports. “Not only do we need to think about the end users who pay a large premium for the device and should ultimately have the freedom to do whatever they want with it, within the realms of the law, but a growing number of developers actually make their living from the software and tweaks which they sell on Cydia.”

Absinthe jailbreak for iPhone 4S, iPad 2 saw 1M first day downloads

There’s also another issue: the current exemption doesn’t cover the iPad and gaming consoles. That said, anyone jailbreaking a tablet or the Xbox 360 now are theoretically breaking the law. To ensure that the exemption is renewed by the Copyright Office, and to add tablets and gaming consoles to the list of devices, the EFF is now calling on consumers to sign a petition.

You can also visit jailbreakingisnotacrime.org to sign a petition supported by EFF and Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, author of Hacking the Xbox.

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