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Summary:

Feel like jailbreaking your Apple iOS device? Fearful that Apple will set the law on you if you do? Fear not, because a decision just rendered by the U.S. Copyright Office now allows you to legally jailbreak your device for a number of purposes.

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UPDATED: Feel like jailbreaking your Apple iOS device? Fearful that Apple will set the law on you if you do? Fear not, because a decision just rendered by the U.S. Copyright Office now allows you to legally jailbreak your device for a number of purposes without violating Apple’s copyright. The alterations to the way the Digital Media Copyright Act (DMCA) are enforced are huge news for both Apple and Apple users alike.

Not only is jailbreaking now okay no longer a violation of copyright, but ripping DVDs and cracking video game or software encryption is allowable too, in certain special circumstances. It doesn’t exactly mean it’s open season for any and all piracy, but it does relax things quite a bit, and will probably make it much harder to prosecute those kinds of violations.

The new rules designate six classes of work that are now exempt from prosecution under the DMCA. Here’s the categories, briefly explained:

  1. Movies on DVD, when used for educational, non-commercial purposes. Bypassing encryption on said videos is now legal. NewTeeVee has more on this portion of the rule changes.
  2. Applications that allow for the use of legally obtained software on platforms that otherwise wouldn’t allow it. For instance, jailbreaking iOS so you can run Backgrounder or Wi-Fi Sync.
  3. Applications that allow for the use of cellular devices on networks for which they weren’t originally designed. Case in point, unlocking an iPhone so that you can use it on Sprint T-Mobile instead of AT&T.
  4. Video games can be cracked when the reason behind it is to promote, investigate or test for security of a computer, computer system or network.
  5. Hardware-dongle protected software for which the dongle is no longer available or is obsolete, rendering the software otherwise unusable.
  6. Enabling text-to-speech in ebooks which contain methods to prevent those read-aloud features, since, presumably this limits access by those with disabilities, though that isn’t specificly stated in the rule itself.

[inline-ad align="right"]Now, as you might have guessed, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any consequences for jailbreaking. Apple is still well within its rights to void your warranty, or even to suspend your Apple Store account if it manages to discover that you’re using jailbreak software. But not having to fear the long arm of the law is yet another argument in favor of jailbreaking still being worth it.

I’ve been leaning heavily towards jailbreaking my iPad, mainly because Apple seems not to be in a hurry to get iOS 4 on the device. This ruling pretty much cinches it for me, though I think I’ll do some more research about the effect it has on battery life before I commit. Anyone else motivated to jailbreak because of this news, or was the threat of legal action never much of a scare tactic to begin with?

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  1. Uh…an iPhone locked to ATT will not work on Sprint’s cell service. T-Mobile yes, but Sprint and Verizon no. This is pretty basic.

    HW

  2. Tom Reestman Monday, July 26, 2010

    Jailbreaking was never really illegal, it was a gray area awaiting a ruling either way. If legality is what kept you from doing it, I think you were misinformed.

    Further, there is zero evidence to support Apple would have gone after individual jailbreakers (had the ruling gone the other way), any more than they go after one-off Hackintoshers.

    I believe Apple wanted the shield of illegality primarily to stop the unscrupulous who will now likely crawl out of the woodwork to make a quick buck on this.

    I can practically see “Jailbreak Kits” for sale with “marketing” copy about how this once forbidden activity is now available to the general public. They’ll publish a link to the ruling that few will read and even less will understand, and they sure as heck won’t dwell on it being unsupported, and that the next iOS release will likely kill it. Money in hand, they’re off to the next sucker leaving their current “customers” yelling at Apple as if it’s Apple’s fault.

    1. ++
      Was never illegal to begin with. You need statue AND precedence.

  3. I never would jailbreak my phone anyway, so it doesn’t really bother me. However, it is interesting to see how exactly they’ve relaxed the laws.

  4. Never bothered me to begin with.

    One small point: It’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, not Digital Media.

  5. So this also means that CFW on a PSP is also LEGAL TOO! we showed sony, apple & MPAA and the world all at the same time.

  6. Cynthia Edwards Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Whether it was legal or not never bothered me. I feel that I bought and paid for the phone. I pay AT&T my monthly dues and how, where, and when I use my phone is my business. AT&T charges us users why too much for shoddy service and if I wasn’t locked into a contract I would jailbreak my phone and go to a more reliable provider asap.

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