AFTER YEARS of taking a very conservative approach to the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), the US Library of Congress has issued a wave of rulings that all but turn the law on its head.
Every three years, the Library of Congress reviews its policy on the DMCA and releases its opinions about how it should be interpreted.
This time the Library allowed widespread circumvention of the CSS encryption on DVDs, under some conditions. And in an opinion that sails up the nose of Steve Jobs it has ruled that jailbreaking Iphones qualifies as "Fair Use". It also will let punters crack their legally purchased e-books in order to have them read aloud by computers.
The Register of Copyrights has allowed for digital restrictions management (DRM) circumvention for DVDs that are "lawfully made and used for educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students, documentary filmmaking, [and] noncommercial videos". Youtube, here we come.
It has decided to allow the use of jailbreaking software or firmware that is designed to "enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telecommunications network". The condition is that the operator has to allow the jailbroken device to be connected to its network. However it does mean that jailbreaking mobile phones is completely legal. It might be interesting to see what happens with future attempts by Apple to prevent jailbroken handsets from accessing its services. We would think it illegal to block a legal right.
DRM on video games can be bypassed for the purpose of "good faith testing for, investigating, or correcting security flaws or vulnerabilities". So it is okay to hack video games if you are looking for flaws in the software.
You are also allowed to hack computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete.
Lastly, if you have an e-book that is protected by DRM you are allowed to hack it if it contains access controls that prevent enabling either the book's read-aloud function or screen readers that render the text into a specialised format. µ