The U.S. Copyright Office has performed its duty of publishing exemptions to the DMCA once every three years. This year's exemptions include a ruling that jailbreaking a smart phone is now legal.
But the detail that's turning heads is that the exemptions don't mention tablets.
In order to keep up with the times, the DMCA makes some effort to adapt to new standards as technology develops. As part of that, exemptions to the rules are made every three years based on new information. But the current exemption is making some question whether there's any logic to the rules.
To back up a step, 'jailbreaking' involves unlocking a phone, generally an iPhone, so it can download material from anywhere, not just the approved marketplace.
Jailbreaking the smartphone itself is fine but downloading illegal applications is still a problem, reports Mobile Magazine. So is doing the same thing to any other device that's not a smartphone.
In defense of its position, the U.S. Copyright Office noted that tablets as a category are not as easy to define as smartphones.
The language used to legalize jailbreaking smartphones refers directly to their role as a telephone which is something they at least all have in common. But the distinction made between smartphones and tablets is generally unsatisfactory, reports Ars Technica.
Another point of contention is the time limits imposed. The exemption only applies to phones purchased within 90 days of its publication. Phones bought before or after that time won't be protected by the ruling unless your carrier specifically allows you to unlock it.
If this sounds confusing to you, you're not the only one.
This exemption problem shows some of the issues with the DMCA's current means to stay in touch with evolving technology. For the next round of exemptions, there's three years to find a better way to do it.
- Jailbreaking smartphones remains legal. Tablets? Not so much. (TechSpot)
- Google Refuses to Unlock Smartphone, Despite Search Warrant (FindLaw's Technologist)
- 'Jailbreaking' Phones Granted DMCA Exemption (FindLaw's Common Law)