Good news, bad news, and really bloody ridiculous news, Android fans. Today, the latest round of DMCA exemptions has been passed and if you've ever jailbroken or rooted a phone, you'll be happy to know that this will continue to be legal. At least, for your phones. If, however, you want to gain su access to your tablet, you're fresh out of luck. Also, phones purchased after January 2013 cannot be legally unlocked for use on a carrier that didn't give you explicit permission.
This a cause I think we can all get behind. Back in 2010, the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress issued a rulemaking statement exempting smartphones and DVDs from reverse engineering laws under the DMCA. Previously, companies like Apple had used these provisions to threaten criminal prosecution (as well as civil action) against those who "jailbroke" (rooted) devices such as the iPhone (or iPad). The exemption to these penalties put in place by the Copyright Office extended to the "jailbreaking" (or, as we know it in the Android community, rooting) of all smartphones (it also extends to things like bootloader unlocking).
Companies like YouTube and Grooveshark are at the center of the ongoing controversies around online distribution of copyrighted materials. This controversy reared its ugly head earlier this month when the Grooveshark app was removed from the Android Market. While this disappointed many of the users who stream all their favourite tunes without having to posses an actual digital copy, Google was justified in kicking these pseudo-pirates out of the Market, right?
The Android market is filled with apps of questionable legality. But oftentimes, overpriced, branded theme and clock apps like those you'll find here are considered relatively harmless - who's stupid enough to buy them, anyway? Still, apps in this category are in clear violation of registered trademarks - and that doesn't sit well with their holders.
Google even has a page for developers and copyright holders to submit DMCA takedown requests for apps on the Market.
Up until some recent events, it was quite hard to get through to Google regarding anything going on in the Android Market, be it stolen apps, copyrighted material, or getting any feedback regarding why your own app was removed. Sure, they still listened to DMCA requests and malware reports, but it seems that complaints by mostly large copyright owners saw any action, while reports by small-time developers getting ignored were getting abundant around the web.
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).