DMCA Says Jailbreaking Legal On Phone, Not Tablet, Unlocking No Longer Cool

Untethered jailbreak iPhone 4S

Every few years, the Librarian of Congress is allowed to pass exemptions to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), chronicling when and how it’s legal to dodge around DRM on your devices. Back in 2010, jailbreaking was officially okayed, but from October 28, 2012, the rules have yet again changed.

Of particular interest to our readers are the exemptions surrounding smartphones and tablets. First, the good news. Jailbreaking your iPhone is still fine under the DMCA. Now, the bad news: tablets are not. The librarian opted not to include them, as the category was too ill-defined, and “an ebook reading device might be considered a “tablet,” as might a handheld video game device or a laptop computer.”

The other blow is that unlocking your phone on your own to go to a new carrier is no longer kosher. They’re saying any phones purchased within 90 days of the new ruling (until January of 2013) will still be allowed to legally unlock on their own, but after that, you can only do it with the carrier’s permission. The reason from this is partly based on most carriers having some method of allowing unlocking, and historical rulings pointing out that you don’t buy software, merely license its use.

All in all, it’s a series of losses for the freedom of users who want to modify their devices. The chances of you actually being prosecuted under these rules is slim, but it’s worth keeping in mind that from now, technically, jailbreaking your iPad might get you in trouble. It might mean that the creators of jailbreaking software need to keep looking over their shoulders. I wonder what the rule is on the AppleTV?

[via Ars Technica]


  1. says

    …and what are the sanctions if someone jail breaks their ipad? I have no desire to JB my ipad3 (yet i do want to jb my ip5). This is just plain DUMB. I’d like to be the test case!

  2. says

    So is it a felony or a misdemeanor to jailbreak an iPad? So you gonna get put in general population next to high ranking gang members and murderers if you jailbreak your iPad? And why is unlocking a device which YOU OWN illegal? Next thing painting your car is going to be illegal, lending a book or a dvd to a friend will be illegal…

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