Under a list of just-handed-down exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is no longer illegal to jailbreak your phone or to circumvent a DVD’s Content Scramble System for the purpose of copying portions of its content. Every three years, the Library of Congress examines copyright law in order to suggest revisions; today’s DMCA amendments are some of the biggest yet. The U.S. Copyright Office’s decision makes it possible for anyone to, say, jailbreak their iPhone in order to run “unauthorized” software or use another service provider besides AT&T, and effectively does away with Apple’s ability to threaten those who jailbreak their phones with legal action. Of course, it doesn’t mean that jailbreaking has been officially sanctioned: Apple is still well within its rights to void your warranty, and you definitely shouldn’t expect tech support to help you through the process. It just means they can’t sue you for doing it, which is always nice to hear.
Equally important are the new relaxed restrictions on ripping content from DVDs, which the “digital civil liberties group” Electronic Frontier Foundation is celebrating as a major win for all video artists. Under the DMCA’s new wording, anyone extracting excerpts from DVDs to create content for “non-commercial purposes” is well within their legal rights—which means that you’re now free to make all of the Mel Gibson YouTube mash-ups you want without fear of being in violation. While the exemption only applies to clips that fall under “fair use,” it’s a major reversal on a policy that has always declared it illegal to rip DVDs for any purpose whatsoever. Expect both Apple and the major movie studios to have something to say about all this.