Exceptions to the DMCA announced today have decreed that jailbreaking of iPhones is no longer an illicit activity to be carried out under the cover of night, among a few other bones thrown to the consumer.
James H. Billington, a “Librarian of Congress,” released a few notable exclusions from the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and aside from the iPhone/jailbreaking clause, provisions were made for sharing content for “criticism”or “comment”:
(1) Motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired and that are protected by the Content Scrambling System when circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment, and where the person engaging in circumvention believes and has reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the use in the following instances:
(i) Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students;
(ii) Documentary filmmaking;
(iii) Noncommercial videos
After that, the issues regarding restriction of cellphone/smartphone function and “unapproved” apps are tackled in two clauses:
(2) 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.
(3) Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable used wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telecommunications network, when circumvention is initiated by the owner of the copy of the computer program solely in order to connect to a wireless telecommunications network and access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network.
The last point tackled by the announcement deals with e-books, which might end up being an even bigger facet of the new rules than the fate of one set of users owning/using one handset. The Library of Congress says:
(6) Literary works distributed in ebook format when all existing ebook editions of the work (including digital text editions made available by authorized entities) contain access controls that prevent the enabling either of the book’s read-aloud function or of screen readers that render the text into a specialized format.
While a discussion never should have been on the table about what people can and cannot do with devices they own, it’s kind of cool to have it officially decreed by the Library of Congress. Do the new rules seem like kind of a big deal? Will companies just look for new ways to lock down content and devices?