Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today reveals new exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that address the legality of jailbreaking your Apple products, unlocking your mobile phone and bypassing computer-game digital rights management systems.
As part of his unending penance, every three years James H. Billington determines if there are any classes of work that require an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 2000's prohibition against bypassing copyright protection mechanisms. Based on recommendations from the Register of Copyrights, whom we rather like, Billington has issued six new exemptions that affect the way play with our digital media.
First off, we have an exemption that says it's OK to bypass content scrambling systems on movies you've purchased in order to make silly YouTube videos or documentaries.
(1) Motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired and that are protected by the Content Scrambling System when circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment, and where the person engaging in circumvention believes and has reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfil the purpose of the use in the following instances: (i) Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students; (ii) Documentary filmmaking; (iii) Noncommercial videos
Then we have the clause that covers jailbreaking your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch in order to run software not approved by Apple's board of magical approval wizards.
(2) Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset.
This means that the government can't come after you for jailbreaking your Apple toy, though it won't stop Apple from voiding your warranty, should they ever find out.
And hey, unlocking mobile phones is OK too!
(3) 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 authorised by the operator of the network.
Number four on the list refers specifically to digital rights management systems for PC games.
(4) Video games accessible on personal computers and protected by technological protection measures that control access to lawfully obtained works, when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing for, investigating, or correcting security flaws or vulnerabilities, if: (i) The information derived from the security testing is used primarily to promote the security of the owner or operator of a computer, computer system, or computer network; and (ii) The information derived from the security testing is used or maintained in a manner that does not facilitate copyright infringement or a violation of applicable law.
Basically you can bypass PC game DRM as long as you are doing so in order to assess or bolster the security of your computer system or to make sure the DRM won't eat your hard drive while you aren't looking.
(5) Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete. A dongle shall be considered obsolete if it is no longer manufactured or if a replacement or repair is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace;
Now we have the dongle exemption, which shall be the title of my first spy novel. From the mind of Michael Fahey comes "The Dongle Exemption".
Finally, we have an exemption that allows you to break open ebooks if they don't support being read aloud by screen readers.
(6) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorised entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book's read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialised format.
The big news here, of course, if that iPhone owners no longer need to hide away, just in case an Apple Store employee see them playing unauthorised apps on their way home from pilates. I realise how scared the community was that someone would arrest them for running non-Apple-approved software. Well now you can rest easy, my friends. Our nightmare is over.
Now get out there and play some unauthorised games!