New DMCA Rules Say Jailbreaking Your iPhone Is OK

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!

[image via Lifehacker]


    Hmm seems circumvention of TPM in gaming consoles is still illegal to enable the playing of games off-region.

      Which is utterly bizarre, seeing as it's legal in Australia (via court decision and subsequent specific exemption), the UK (via court decision) and a whole bunch of other places.

        Actually it is now illegal under the new amendments introduced by the Australian-US Free Trade Agreement. Check out the new definition of s.10(1).

        Circumventing TPM for the purposes of playing a game from another region IS ALLOWED, but circumventing the TPM to disable the TPM which prevents the console from playing pirated copies is NOT ALLOWED.

        Also modding in UK is illegal from the recent case of Gilham (sic) v The Queen.

    Does this also apply to all us down under?

      This is US legislation, which doesn't directly impact what's legal or not in Australia (for the most part).

      Have a look at the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth):

      Interesting points are as follows:

      --> Geographic market segmentation is specifically excluded from protection by the Act (Section 10(1), point (c) under "access control technological protection measure"; point (b)(iii) under "technological protection measure"). Hence, region-locking circumvention is OK.

      --> Homebrew-blocking appears to also be specifically excluded from protection (Section 10(1), point (d) under "access control technological protection measure"; point (b)(iv) under "technological protection measure"). So run your homebrew to your heart's content.

      --> Importing legitimate video games is perfectly fine (Section 10(1), point (i) under "infringing copy"; Section 44E). Importing pirated games is still illegal (Section 10(1), "infringing copy"). However, I'm told by Customs that you're not allowed to import video games that have been specifically banned by the OFLC.

      --> The exception that allows a reasonable proportion (~10%) of a copyrighted work to be copied does not appear to apply to video games (Section 10(1); points (2) and (2A) under "writing"). Hence, Australia's equivalent of "fair use" does not appear to apply to video games.

      --> Backing up (legitimate) video games is legal, so long as you (or someone you contract with) makes the copy for you and you yourself own the legitimate original (Section 47C).

      --> Copying video games to allow people to make new programs that work with these games is legal (Section 47D).

      --> Copying video games in order to patch them for bug fixes is okay if you own a legitimate original if a patched copy is not available "within a reasonable time at an ordinary commercial price" (Section 47E).

      --> Copying computer programs for security testing and fixing is legal (Section 47F).

      --> None of these copied programs can be sold or given away to someone else if they plan to use it for any other purpose than those outlined above (Section 47G).

      --> The provisions of any agreement (e.g. the End-User License Agreement) that limit these legitimate copying reasons has no effect (Section 47H). That's a big "up yours" to over-zealous DRM!

      --> The use of a modchip or soft-mod is ILLEGAL if it does anything more than allow for playing out-of-region games, playing homebrew, allowing for interoperability of other programs (I *think* "jailbreaking" iPhones fits in here), researching encryption or preventing third parties from accessing private data (Section 116AN).

      --> Making or installing illegal modchips or soft-mods is illegal itself (Sections 116AO(1) & 116AP(1)). This does not apply to programs not originally designed to circumvent DRM (e.g. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess) (Sections 116AO(2) & 116AP(2)).

      --> If you make illegal modchips, soft-mods, or provide these as a service, you can be fined a potentially infinite amount (Section 116AQ(2)).

      --> It is illegal to remove DRM (Section 116B).

      --> It is illegal to distribute "cracked" software (Section 116C).

      --> It is illegal to distribute registry keys that allow software to be "cracked" (Section 116CA).

      --> Any removal or cracking of DRM can be penalised an infinite amount (Section 116D).

      --> It seems that you can go to prison *only* if you pirate games or sell hacks on a commercial scale (Section 132AC).

      --> Of course, it's illegal to copy games for the purposes of sale (Section 132AD), hiring-out (132AE), offering for sale or higher (132AF), or exhibiting commercially (132AG). It's also illegal to import infringing copies commercially (132AH), distribute infringing copies at all (132AI), own an infringing copy for the purposes of commerce (132AJ), make or own a device for making infringing copies (132AL), or advertising the supply of infringing copies (132AM).

        No it is not legal to back up games in Australia!

        A video game is a cinematographic film!! Look up Sega v Galaxy. The courts deemed games as cinematographic films because they are films embodied in a computer program.

        Yes I know it sounds stupid but it's how it is. For our sake, I do hope the government permits backing up during this review:

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