Now Legal to Jailbreak Your iPhone in the U.S.

Feel like jailbreaking your Apple iOS device? Fearful that Apple will set the law on you if you do? Fear not, because a decision just rendered by the U.S. Copyright Office now allows you to legally jailbreak your device for a number of purposes. The alterations to the Digital Media Copyright Act (DMCA) are huge news for both Apple and Apple users alike.

Not only is jailbreaking now okay, but ripping DVDs and cracking video game or software encryption is too, in certain special circumstances. It doesn’t exactly mean it’s open season for any and all piracy, but it does relax things quite a bit, and will probably make it much harder to prosecute those kinds of violations.

The new rules designate six classes of work that are now exempt from prosecution under the DMCA. Here’s the categories, briefly explained:

  1. Movies on DVD, when used for educational, non-commercial purposes. Bypassing encryption on said videos is now legal. NewTeeVee has more on this portion of the rule changes.
  2. Applications that allow for the use of legally obtained software on platforms that otherwise wouldn’t allow it. For instance, jailbreaking iOS so you can run Backgrounder or Wi-Fi Sync.
  3. Applications that allow for the use of cellular devices on networks for which they weren’t originally designed. Case in point, unlocking an iPhone so that you can use it on Sprint instead of AT&T.
  4. Video games can be cracked when the reason behind it is to promote, investigate or test for security of a computer, computer system or network.
  5. Hardware-dongle protected software for which the dongle is no longer available or is obsolete, rendering the software otherwise unusable.
  6. Enabling text-to-speech in ebooks which contain methods to prevent those read-aloud features, since, presumably this limits access by those with disabilities, though that isn’t specific stated in the rule itself.

Now, as you might have guessed, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any consequences for jailbreaking. Apple is still well within its rights to void your warranty, or even to suspend your Apple Store account if it manages to discover that you’re using jailbreak software. But not having to fear the long arm of the law is yet another argument in favor of jailbreaking still being worth it.

I’ve been leaning heavily towards jailbreaking my iPad, mainly because Apple seems not to be in a hurry to get iOS 4 on the device. This ruling pretty much cinches it for me, though I think I’ll do some more research about the effect it has on battery life before I commit. Anyone else motivated to jailbreak because of this news, or was the threat of legal action never much of a scare tactic to begin with?



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