Tuesday, July 27, 2010

US Copyright Office Approves "Jailbreaking" Wireless Handsets

Under 17 USC Section 1201(a)(1), the Librarian of Congress is required every three years to determine whether there are any classes of works that are exempted from the prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work.  This provision is part of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act ("DMCA").

On July 26, 2010 the Librarian of Congress announced that among the six classes of exempted works, one includes:

"Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable used wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telecommunications network, when circumvention is initiated by the owner of the copy of the computer program solely in order to connect to a wireless telecommunications network and access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network."

This exemption is important and may significantly effect wireless telephones such as iPhone, which attempt to restrict users' iPhone or iPad access exclusively to the Apple App Store. 

Although not easily done, "cracking", or "jailbreaking" a wireless phone can be done by a determined wireless device owner.  As time goes by, more information about how to crack wireless phones will inevitably become available on the Internet.  Also, while now an exempted use, such a modification of a wireless device will violate the terms of use of most, if not all, wireless phone user agreements and will therefore void the warranty of the wireless device.

This is a link to the US Copyright Office Announcement.


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