Earlier in January we told you that the EFF were fighting to renew the DMCA exemption that made Jailbreaking mobile devices legal. The EFF are even fighting to make Jailbreaking tablets and consoles legal, by adding new exemptions to the DMCA.
Engadget recently had the chance to sit down with the staff attorney of the EFF, Mitch Stoltz and talk about the legality of Jailbreaking. The legitimacy of the DMCA as a whole is discussed, more facts about the actual renewal process of exemptions is talked about and of course whether or not bringing tablets and consoles into the picture may be a bad idea is examined. You can take a look at a part of the interview in the quoted area below.
Why is the debate over the legality of jailbreaking suddenly in the news again?
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act has an exemptions process. The Library of Congress every three years makes exemptions to the law. Those have to be renewed, so we’re coming up on the next cycle. In the last cycle, the EFF asked for an exemption so that you can jailbreak a smartphone that you own, to run your own software on it, so that wouldn’t be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, section 1201.
The idea behind this cycle is that the technology itself is evolving, so you may have to reevaluate the thinking behind it.
I think that was the reason, but in certain ways it seems a little ridiculous to have to present justifications every few years. You could make the case that technology changes and needs change, but it certainly puts a big administrative burden on people who are defending people rights, just to use their own devices.
Is the DMCA law as a whole flawed? Why focus on this specific section?
I’m new to EFF, but I know that in previous cycles [it] has proposed exemptions and then at one point decided that the whole process was basically fixed and unfair, and decided not to propose any more. But if organizations like us don’t argue for exemptions, no one will. It’s not the sort of process that’s easy or cheap for individuals to do. The Copyright Office asks for a lot of very detailed proof. They have hearings and they want specifics. Its a process generally for lawyers.
The exemptions that you’re asking for have been broadened to including tablets and consoles. Are you risking shooting yourself in the foot by bringing more companies into the fold to present arguments against you?
It’s possible, and the Copyright Office historically has interpreted this law very narrowly as to what exemptions they’ll grant. They grant exemptions very grudgingly but they’ve opened up a little bit in the past two cycles as to what they’ve granted and that’s given us hope. Based on the comments that we’ve seen, there’s pretty widespread support for an exemption on jailbreaking in regards to mobile devices, and we think there’s pretty widespread support for video game consoles as well. The console exemption is our major new “ask” this time. I got an interesting comment on it this morning — a gentleman made a comment to the Copyright Office that he has a child with autism and he needs to use a modified video game console to show DVDs in ways that his child can deal with and benefit from best. It’s just such a specialized need and market that it’s not something that console or video game makers would ever do.
If you have not taken action already then it is important you show your support for Jailbreaking by emailing the U.S. Copyright Offices (click here to do so). For those wondering the actual final ruling of this exemption will not be completed until the October of 2012, but it is important to get the ball rolling now. What did you think of this interview? Have you emailed the U.S. Copyright Offices? Share your responses in the comments section below…