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US rules jailbreaking tablets is illegal

But jailbreaking smartphones is still legal
Fri Oct 26 2012, 12:54
Samsung Galaxy Note 2 Galaxy S3 iPhone 5

THE UNITED STATES Librarian of Congress has ruled that jailbreaking tablets remains off limits, although jailbreaking smartphones remains legal.

Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and a number of other high profile electronics makers rely on walled garden policies to generate cash from their respective app stores, all of which are protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Now the Libraran of Congress, which has the authority to grant exceptions to the DMCA has reiterated that jailbreaking smartphones is not illegal.

Back in 2010, the Librarian of Congress ruled that jailbreaking smartphones was legal only when users owned multiple devices and wanted to be able to read ebooks on all of them. This was based on the fact that devices implement different user accessibility features, however the practicalities of owning multiple tablets made this largely academic for most people who didn't have several hundred dollars burning a hole in their pockets.

Apple's IOS has long been the focus for clever researchers to foil the firm's attempts to keep its users within the confines of the App Store, with the company and researchers playing a multi-year game of cat and mouse. The Librarian of Congress described the exception to the DMCA as, "It permits the circumvention of computer programs on mobile phones to enable interoperability of non-vendor approved software applications (often referred to as "jailbreaking"), but does not apply to tablets - as had been requested by proponents - because the record did not support it."

The Librarian of Congress investigated this matter due to the closed nature of ebook retailing and in particular the use of ebooks, and the exceptions to the DMCA were proposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Free Software Foundation (FSF), Mozilla, New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative and New Media Rights. However the Librarian said that the definition of a tablet device wasn't specific enough to allow for the exception to be extended to devices such as the Ipad.

Thanks to the EFF and its supporters, the ruling is certainly common sense with regard to smartphones, even though it falls short of covering tablets. It is interesting that the Librarian of Congress wasn't happy with the legal definition of a tablet, and it's uncertain whether that will have any affect on the growing avalanche of patent lawsuits that address smartphones and tablets. µ


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