26
Jul
300px-US-LibraryOfCongress-Seal.svg

If you’ve cruised the blogosphere today, you’ve probably noticed a number of articles talking about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and the Library of Congress having decided to add a few exemptions to the sweeping piece of legislation’s authority. Why is this a big deal? And is it a big deal at all?

On the latter, in some ways yes, and I’ll explain why only some later. For the former, it signifies a change in attitude over what constitutes infringement of digital copyright for two major pieces of technology, one of which we’re interested in here at Android Police (take a guess at what sort of technology that is).

What Changed?

The LoC (as it shall henceforth be known) decided that Americans are within their rights to modify, remove, or replace the software on their mobile devices without being subject to the copyright restrictions of the DMCA.

In the past, a certain company (we won’t name names) had threatened to take legal action against hackers/developers who sought to “jailbreak” a certain phone. With the new mobile device exemption as proclaimed by the LoC, such legal action is no longer possible.

To be clear: developers, hackers, and others who would seek to modify a phone manufacturer’s software no longer have to fear the possibility of being sued by said manufacturer. For the rest of us, the meaning is a little less clear. That is why the answer to the question of this change having importance is a conditional yes.

Should I Care?

Probably, but the significance of this decision is ideological more than anything, and is analogous to the right to remix a song, or splice footage from a movie: once the device and its software are in your possession, they are yours to do with as you wish (so long as you aren’t redistributing their technology for profit).

For the sake of clarification, this decision to make mobile phone partially DMCA exempt does not in any way relate to device warranties or service provider contracts. While we do now have the right to legally modify our phones as it suits us, this doesn’t mean the world’s turning upside-down. Mobile carriers can still terminate your service contract if you unlock your phone, and handset manufacturers can still void your warranty for the same reason.

The change does, though, remove a handset manufacturer’s right to deactivate your device if it is found on an alternative network or running custom software. So there’s that.

Source: Engadget

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • ari-free

    It means that Apple won't be able to shut down Cydia, which profits when people jailbreak the iPhone.

  • Seth

    Does this cover the changing of MEID/ESN on Sprint/Verizon? I know it used be/maybe still is illegal to change the ESN on one of the carriers phones to use it with another. Clearly Sprint/Verizon still doesn't like this, but is it now legal to change the ESN on a device?