Jailbreaking Phones Approved by the Library of Congress
Here's something completely unexpected: The Library of Congress has added exceptions to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) that makes it illegal to alter the firmware or software in a phone. This means jailbreaking iPhones and rooting Android phones are effectively legal … to a certain extent.
Smartphone users jailbreak or root their phones by circumventing parts of the operating system that restrict user-made changes to how the system functions. Most do this in order to run unapproved apps on the iPhone or to add functionality such as tethering, which allows a phone to be used as a wireless modem. It was also strictly illegal according to the DMCA, which protects copyright holders.
The new changes from the Library of Congress say that it is okay for users to alter their phones, but only if it is used to install legally obtained programs.
"Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications, when they have been lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset," read the statement released by the Library of Congress.
This is good news for those who like to root their phones, but it's also not a free pass. As the Library of Congress states, this only allows for legally obtained software to be installed on a jailbroken phone. And it doesn't require the manufacturer to support users doing this. All this does is protect the user from being sued for violating the manufacturer mandate to not tamper with the phone. Manufacturers can still forbid rooting and jailbreaking, and they can still void the warranty for those who do so.
Don't expect Apple to stop putting in more measures to prevent jailbreaking and unauthorized apps from being installed. And jailbreaking won't be big business either because the DMCA still forbids distributing jailbreak tools or any "technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof."