Jailbreaking Could Become a Legal Violation This Year

Back on July 26th of 2010, the US government made the act of jailbreaking electronic devices legal by federal law. This cleared up a lot of the confusion surrounding jailbreaking, and opened the door for folks worried about its legality.

Over the last two years we’ve been enjoying this freedom, most recently hacking our iPhone 4S and iPad 2 devices. But according to the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), we could lose that freedom this year if we don’t act…

The EFF writes:

“Smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles are powerful computers with lots of untapped potential. Yet many of these devices are set up to run only software that’s been approved by the manufacturer. Modifying a device to run independent software – known as jailbreaking – is important to programmers, enthusiasts, and users. But jailbreaking creates legal uncertainty. Some device manufacturers claim that jailbreaking violates Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which carries stiff penalties.”

But if the government already made jailbreaking legal, what are the folks at the EFF worried about? Well the ruling handed down by the Copyright Office in 2010 is due to expire this year and the EFF is looking to convince the Office to renew the exemption. Otherwise jailbreaking falls back into a murky semi-illegal state giving device manufacturers the power to pursue legal action against jailbreakers at will.

So what can we do? The EFF provides this link to the Copyright Office’s comment board. The Office needs to hear why folks think that jailbreaking is so important. Here are some suggested elements to include:

  • Which jailbreaking exemption are you supporting—smartphones/tablets, video game consoles, or both?
  • What’s your background (are you a developer, hobbyist, user, independent researcher, etc.)?
  • What device do you want to ensure you have the legal authority to jailbreak?
  • What limitations would you face if you weren’t able to jailbreak?

Comments should be marked as class “5” and are due by 5 PM ET on February 10. We’ll obviously keep you updated on the EFF’s progress and will keep a watchful eye out for the Copyright Office’s decision.

Have you sent your comment in yet?