US Copyright Office approves jailbreaking

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US Copyright Office approves jailbreaking

Phone unlock procedure considered fair use.

The United States Library of Congress has approved the use of 'jailbreaking' procedures on mobile handsets.

The US copyright office said that the use of procedures to remove restrictions on third party applications, a procedure otherwise known as 'jailbreaking,' would fall under the banner of 'fair use,' a series of guidelines that allow limited public use of copyrighted content.

The ruling singled out a case involving Apple's iPhone, which has been a popular target for jailbreaking efforts since its release. The procedure has been most commonly used to install third-party applucations not offered through the App Store.

The decision noted a case between Apple and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The iPhone vendor had argued that the use of such procedures was a violation of copyright laws.

The court found that on the user level, individuals had a right to modify their handsets.

"The users is not engaging in any commercial exploitation of the firmware," the Library of Congress wrote in its decision. (PDF)

"At least not when the jailbreaking is done for the user's own private user of the device."

The ruling was hailed as a victory for the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as other user right advocacy groups..

"By granting all of EFF's applications, the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress have taken three important steps today to mitigate some of the harms caused by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act," said EFF civil liberyies director Jennifer Granick.

"We are thrilled to have helped free jailbreakers, unlockers and vidders from this law's overbroad reach."

Likewise, user rights group Public Knowledge threw its support behind the decision, though the group suggested that such matters be reviewed more frequently.

"We are pleased that the Copyright Office will allow consumers the freedom to have more choice of applications for their iPhones," wrote deputy legal Sherwin Siy.

"This type of decision is long overdue."

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