Jailbreaking iPhones, circumventing DRM okay for fair use

The U.S. Copyright Office has ruled jailbreaking an Apple iPhone or other popular consumer smartphones will not be a federal copyright law violation, as long as copyright is being circumvented for a legitimate reason.

According to the Copyright Office, jailbreaking a phone — and circumventing the phone’s protection software — is allowed as long as it’s done to “execute software applications.”

Jailbreaking iPhones, circumventing DRM okay for fair use

Jailbreaking the iPhone and other smartphones has become extremely popular — despite voiding warranty/exchange agreements — as owners continue to seek the ability to run certain apps and software features.

Not surprisingly, Apple has objected to the Copyright Office’s announcement, especially due to issues related to jailbroken phones.

Apple has never targeted its customers for jailbreaking the iPhone, but an early 2009 estimate indicates at least 400,000 owners have jailbroken their phone.  It’s likely that number has increased higher now that more iPhone owners are familiar with some of the benefits of jailbreaking — and it continues to become even easier.

“This is not a broad evaluation of the successes or failures of the DMCA,” said James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, in a statement.  “The purpose of the proceeding is to determine whether current technologies that control access to copyrighted works are diminishing the ability of individuals to use works in lawful, noninfringing ways.”

Although the DMCA doesn’t stop circumventing copyright controls, the latest changes don’t include support for DVD, Blu-ray and video game backups.

The U.S. Copyright Office meets once every three years to discuss cases related to Section 1201 — related to “Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems —  .  The revision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) also allows owners to circumvent DVD encryption, so backups can also be made.

It’s no longer considered copyright infringement if an owner takes video clips from DVDs using the Content Scrambling System (CSS) if the video is used in noncommercial videos, documentaries, and educational use.