Intellectual Property

They're Takin' Me Down to Huntsville, But I'm Not Gonna Stay


A burst of sense from the Copyright Office:

Starring Number 6 as Number 2.

Federal regulators lifted a cloud of uncertainty when they announced it was lawful to hack or "jailbreak" an iPhone, declaring Monday there was "no basis for copyright law to assist Apple in protecting its restrictive business model."

Jailbreaking is hacking the phone's OS to allow consumers to run any app on the phone they choose, including applications not authorized by Apple.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation asked regulators 19 months ago to add jailbreaking to a list of explicit exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention provisions….

Monday's decision, (.pdf) which applies to all mobile phones, does not require Apple or other handset makers to allow jailbreaking. Instead it makes it lawful to circumvent controls designed to block jailbreaking.

That's not all the Copyright Office did. The Center for Social Media reports that now

college teachers of all kinds, university film and media studies students, documentary filmmakers, and makers of noncommercial videos can all break encryption on commercial DVDs to quote motion pictures, for the purpose of criticism and comment. Breaking encryption is the kind of thing you do with HandBrake and other software programs that let you copy material that the provider has digitally "locked." The DMCA makes illegal most breaking of encryption for any purpose; however, every three years the Copyright Office can grant exemptions for petitioners who suffer adverse effects from the law….

The rules are broader than many expected, but still involve strict restrictions. The exemption for use of motion pictures on DVD--which lumps together doc filmmakers, college teachers and film/media studies students and noncommercial video creators such as remixers--is limited only to criticism and commentary, not to all potential fair uses; the excerpt must be "relatively short"; a new work must be created; and the maker must have a reason why an inferior quality (such as one shot off a screen or from a VHS) is not good enough. The rule only applies to DVDs, not to all audio-visual material--for instance to video games or slideshows. But the Librarian made no quantitative restrictions, in fact refusing to define "relatively short," which means that makers can judge the length according to their critical or commentary needs; and the decision about whether high quality is necessary is left to the user.

NEXT: Arthur C. Brooks on the Battle Between Free Enterprise and Big Government

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  1. It all seems so tawdry that it should be illegal. So, let's get on that, Congress.

  2. Considering that Apple has never gone after people who jailbreak their phones... what exactly does this change? It's still the same situation. You're still voiding your warranty, and Apple's still allowed to put programming in updated versions of the iPhone OS that disallows the jailbreaking.

    1. Exactly where I was going. The warranty. So, balancing the cost of the warranty vs. money savings from tethering phone data connection to computer instead of getting additional wireless service.

      Guessing there is probably a different problem with that.

      1. Seeing as you can save more in two-three months than a new IPhone will cost you, I would say that jailbreaking your IPhone so it can be a your computer modem is a heckuva deal.

        1. Same I was thinking, I use close to 5G/mo. (what is in my plan before extra charges) on the wireless connection right now. iPhone is unlimited data.

          There must be some other problem, like them not having an official limit but cutting it back if it goes too high.

    2. Or remotely shutting off or blocking "jailbroken" phones.

  3. Did they need a law either way? For instance, I don't purchase Apple products because their business model is too restrictive.


    1. I have an ipod which I use every every day. But if I ever do get a smart phone it will be a droid of some sort.

      I'm wondering if this would allow jailbreaking of windows software as well.

      1. You can install anything you want on a Windows Mobile phone. As for changing carriers, you can get Windows Mobile phones from all of them, so there really isn't much need.

        Disclosure: I have a Droid.

      2. It seems jailbreaking is allowed in software for security purposes.

    2. DMCA has provisions that do make it illegal to 'jailbreak' a phone, or to perform similar actions in regards to DRM. Not sure on the whole civil/fines/felony levels....

      Apple should be free to act like the pricks they are, but they should not have Government support to do so.

  4. I wonder if this also has implications for MacOS.

    1. Disclosure: I run Linux.

    2. I don't think they try to keep Mac OS closed in the same way. Since it is based on BSD and is UNIX compliant, anyone who is familiar with UNIX-like things can pretty much do what they want without having to break anything.

      1. Huh?

        Ask Psystar about Apple's stance on re-selling something like OSX.

        Apple is just like McDonald's in the fact that they aggressively pursue legal actions against anyone that might infringe on their brand.

        I own a Macbook Pro, love how it works, but still wish there was an alternative because I hate being lumped in with other Apple users.

        It is another classic case of Team Red (GOP) vs. Team Blue (Apple) dominating the discussion. Mostly because Team Yellow (libertarian/linux) is so deliberately dysfunctional that it will never be adopted by the masses.

        1. Even worse, just try making a gadget that looks like theirs and feel their wrath.

  5. This legal wrangling is so 70's. The science is settled - tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak. Period.

    1. My phone is just a phone, and I don't even want and iPad/Phone/anything.

      Is that legal?

    2. Yeah, and look what good that did for Phil Lynott.

  6. Federal regulators [...] declar[ed] Monday there was "no basis for copyright law to assist Apple in protecting its restrictive business model."

    Guys, by definition IP (Intellectual "Property") is the protection of a restrictive business model. It is certainly NOT a protection of property rights.

    1. One nerd flame war today wasn't enough for you, OM?

  7. I'm looking for a new punk.

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