An incoming end to exemptions for jailbreaking in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has prompted protests from influential gadget-hack enthusiasts, asking the Library of Congress to make permanent the right to modify devices you own. Andrew "bunnie" Huang - who wrote Hacking the Xbox: An Introduction to Reverse Engineering after identifying the encryption key on the original Microsoft console in 2002, and who currently leads the hardware development at chumby - has leant his weight to the Jailbreaking Is Not A Crime campaign, with over 4,000 signatures from users who believe it should be up to them to decide what's fair use of their tech toys.
"I believe if you buy hardware, you should own it; and ownership means nothing less of full rights to do with it as you wish" Huang says of his involvement with the campaign. "Jailbreaking is helping to make technology better, more secure, and more flexible."
The original exemptions to the DMCA were pushed by the Electronics Frontier Foundation, which is also working with Huang on this new petition. Agreed in mid-2010, the concession meant that jailbreaking an iPhone, unlocking a SIM-locked smartphone or hacking a device to run a different OS on it fell under fair use. However, they were only covered for a period of three years.
"When one jailbreaks a smartphone in order to make the operating system on that phone interoperable with an independently created application that has not been approved by the maker of the smartphone or the maker of its operating system, the modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses" Copyright Office (2010)
That three year period is almost up, meaning soon it could be deemed illegal to modify a device you've legitimately paid for. Apple is expected to lead the way in clamping down on such tweaks; the company was less than enamored with the original DMCA amendment, warning users that even though they may be legally protected, jailbreaking an iOS device would invalidate their official warranty.
More details in our SlashGear 101 on Jailbreaking.
[Image credit: Bjørn Molstad]