In a ruling served in the DMCA, changes have been introduced to certain aspects of jailbreaking and unlocking along with a lot of changes in the permissions for copying or ripping DVD content, hacking game consoles and eBook readers etc.
While the whole document contains specifics on a lot of issues pertaining to DVD copyrights, accessibility features in DRM-protected eBooks and other things, our primary area of concern is jailbreaking and unlocking. Let’s take a look at that.
Jailbreaking: Legal for Smartphones, Not So for Tablets
Jailbreaking is still on the “legal” side of things but there are important changes which lead to big ramifications henceforth.
- Jailbreaking is legal for smartphones – iPhones, Android smartphones fall under this category. You can go on jailbreaking iPhones and other smartphones for the next three years without the threat of anyone suing you.
- But jailbreaking is NOT legal for tablets. This includes iPad, Android tabs, game consoles, and those eBook readers which have metamorphosed into tablets.
Ars Technica noted:
The Librarian ruled that “the record lacked a sufficient basis to develop an appropriate definition for the ‘tablet’ category of devices, a necessary predicate to extending the exemption beyond smartphones.”
On Unlocking: You Need Carrier’s Permission
Unlocking, for smartphones, goes out the window but there’s a catch.
Phones bought between now and January 2013 are exempt and can be unlocked without worrying about legal consequences. But starting January 2013, if you want to unlock a phone to be able to make it work on any carrier, you’ll need the permission of the particular carrier the phone came “locked” with.
The change with unlocking comes because DMCA finally clears its confusion between “licensing” a piece of software and “buying” one. When you buy a phone, you are really “licensing” following the EULA. This leads to the nullification of the claim that unlocking falls under fair use policy.
Public Opinion, The Amviguity of Phablets
The opinion is widely diverged with quite a bunch of public rights activists trying to play down the whole thing as a result of the fragmentation in “tablets”. The ruling itself notes that the unclear terms in the definition of tablet are one of the important reasons why a single ruling to bracket all the devices isn’t possible.
With the demarcation between phones and tablets blurring continuously (mini tablets with SIM-cards and phablets with large displays), it has become increasingly difficult to get to a singular ruling for all the devices.
- Ars Technica’s report on the new DMCA rules.
- The file from Federal Register which contains the full ruling.
What’s your take on this issue? We’re more concerned about the issues regarding unlocking.