The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the US copyright law that was designed ostensibly to protect the rights of content owners in the digital age. But it’s come under a lot of criticism since its establishment from those who fear that it takes away long-held “fair use” rights that let people who purchase things like DVDs or software control how they use those items.
Today the US Copyright Office has issued new rules that make it legal to make changes to your devices and software in several circumstances Here are the two biggest changes:
- You can legally jailbreak or root a phone in order to allow it to run software that’s prohibited by the manufacturer or wireless carrier
- You can decrypt DVDs in order to use short excerpts for educational, noncommerical, or documentary purposes.
The new rules also allow users to crack eBook DRM — but only in instances when the only available versions of a digital book make it impossible to use the book with a read-aloud accessibility application. There’s also an exemption to the DMCA for “computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete.”
You can find more details about the new exemptions at Copyright.gov.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that all phones, software, DVDs, and other items will suddenly come without any form of copy protection in the future. It simply means that the US government is no longer criminalizing the act of cracking that encryption in certain circumstances. So you can basically go ahead and keep doing the things you were probably doing without worrying about someone breaking down your door with a search warrant. Oh yeah, it also means we probably won’t see any lawsuits against the developers of phone-hacking software unless they use proprietary code.