The Electronic Frontier Foundation (or EFF) is once again fighting to keep the practice of jailbreaking legal. The non-profit digital rights group announced this week that it has filed a petition with the Librarian of Congress and the Copyright Office to extend and expand the exemption that allows you to jailbreak your phone, without violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Because the software on mobile phones and tablets is copyrighted, the act of jailbreaking (and rooting on Android devices) is technically forbidden by the DMCA. But Congress created a procedure to allow for exemptions on activities where users make fair use of copyrighted works, reviewed every three years. The last exemption for jailbreaking was awarded in 2012, so it’s set to expire soon.
We saw this process play out with unlocking early last year, where its exemption expired and the act became illegal, punishable by fines up to $500,000. This has changed since then, obviously, with the White House getting involved, but it doesn’t seem likely we’ll see that outcome again. Jailbreaking is somewhat of a controversial practice, marred by intimidating malware and rampant piracy.
I like the EFF’s take on why jailbreaking is important:
That’s important because jailbreaking (or “rooting,” on Android devices) has real-world implications for users’ ability to use their phones and tablets effectively and securely. It may be a necessary step before installing security updates after a device has stopped being supported by the manufacturer. In other cases, it may help users install accessibility software that allows them to use a device despite disabilities.
A quick look around iDownloadBlog is a testament to how we feel about jailbreaking, and why this is important to us. We offer one of the most comprehensive collections of jailbreak coverage on the web, we sponsor and attend the annual Jailbreakcon event, and put out a weekly podcast on the topic. We’ll be keeping an eye on the EFF’s petition, and will pass along new details as we receive them.