The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) won a critical exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) anti-circumvention provisions on Monday July 26th. This exemption provides new legal protections for consumers who modify their cell phones in order to make them more operable for their own personal use. Previously, these actions could have been used as grounds to sue them for their non-infringing or fair use activities.
Read onward after the break to see the rest of the article!
"By granting all of EFF’s applications, the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress have taken three important steps today to mitigate some of the harms caused by the DMCA," said Jennifer Granick, EFF’s Civil Liberties Director. "We are thrilled to have helped free jailbreakers, unlockers and vidders from this law’s overbroad reach."
The exemptions were granted as part of a statutorily prescribed rulemaking process, conducted every three years to mitigate the danger the DMCA poses to legitimate, non-infringing uses of copyrighted materials. The DMCA prohibits "circumventing" digital rights management (DRM) and "other technical protection measures" used to control access to copyrighted works. While the DMCA still chills competition, free speech, and fair use, today’s exemptions take unprecedented new strides towards protecting more consumers and artists from its extensive reach.
The first of EFF’s three successful requests clarifies the legality of cell phone "jailbreaking" â€” software modifications that liberate iPhones and other handsets to run applications from sources other than those approved by the phone maker. More than a million iPhone owners are said to have "jailbroken" their handsets in order to change wireless providers or use applications obtained from sources other than Apple’s own iTunes "App Store," and many more have expressed a desire to do so. But the threat of DMCA liability had previously endangered these customers and alternate applications stores.
In its reasoning in favor of EFF’s jailbreaking exemption, the Copyright Office rejected Apple’s claim that copyright law prevents people from installing unapproved programs on iPhones: "When one jailbreaks a smartphone in order to make the operating system on that phone interoperable with an independently created application that has not been approved by the maker of the smartphone or the maker of its operating system, the modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses."
"Copyright law has long held that making programs interoperable is fair use," confirmed Corynne McSherry, EFF’s Senior Staff Attorney. "It’s gratifying that the Copyright Office acknowledges this right and agrees that the anticircumvention laws should not interfere with interoperability."
We really like this idea, and hope that it helps reverse the existing chilling effect that has kept innovation stifled for years..
To read the full text of the EFF article, and how the other two requests help clarify the legality of fair use and free speech, click here:
EFF Wins New Legal Protections for Video Artists, Cell Phone Jailbreakers, and Unlockers