You bought it. You own it. Tell the Copyright Office: let me install whatever software I want on my phone, tablet, or video game system.

bunnie Huang, author of Hacking the Xbox, is standing with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to defend users' right to jailbreak. [learn more]

What is the DMCA?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a massive piece of copyright legislation that, among other things, prohibits "circumventing" digital rights management (DRM) and "other technical protection measures" used to control access to copyrighted works, or providing tools to help others do so. Entertainment industry lobbyists argued that DRM backed by law would quell digital copyright infringement. Twelve years later, we know that hasn't exactly worked out.

But in an effort to ensure that these DRM mechanisms would not impede lawful uses of copyrighted works, Congress included a "fail-safe" mechanism: a DMCA rulemaking proceeding is held every three years by the Copyright Office. The Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress have the power to grant exemptions to the DMCA's anti-circumvention rules if the restrictions would encroach on otherwise lawful uses of copyrighted works.

The process is cumbersome: the public must submit requests backed up by evidence, others comment on those requests, hearings are held, the Register of Copyrights issues recommendations and then, finally the Librarian of Congress makes his or her decision. And the exemptions don't renew automatically, so the process must be repeated every three years or so.

Who is the EFF and what are their exemption requests?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a digital rights organization that fights on behalf of users and innovators everywhere. Bringing together lawyers, policy analysts, activists, and technologists, EFF fights for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations. By mobilizing thousands of concerned citizens through our Action Center, EFF beats back bad legislation. In addition to advising policymakers, EFF educates the press and public.

In the 2012 rulemaking, EFF is asking the Copyright Office to protect the "jailbreaking" of smartphones, electronic tablets, and video game consoles - liberating them to run operating systems and applications from any source, not just those approved by the manufacturer. EFF also asked for legal protections for artists and critics who use excerpts from DVDs or downloading services to create new, remixed works. These exemptions build on and expand exemptions that EFF won on the 2009 rulemaking proceeding for jailbreakers and remix artists.

Dear Ms. Pallante,

Whether it's patching a security vulnerability or homebrewing video games and apps, people who own smart phones, tablets, and video game systems are finding inventive ways to use and improve their devices. Often users need to gain full administrative access, through a process known as "jailbreaking," to innovate and take advantage of the device's full potential.

But right now, jailbreaking a device can lead to legal threats. That's a vulnerability in the law: we need you to create a "patch" so users who jailbreak devices won't be at legal risk.

Three years ago, the Copyright Office agreed to create an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so that folks could jailbreak their smartphones. But that exemption is about to expire. We need you to renew that exemption and expand it to cover jailbreaking gadgets with similar computation potential. These are all siblings to the PC, yet unlocking their potential as versatile and powerful computers is burdened with legal murkiness.

We need these exemptions to conduct security research on devices to help safeguard everyday users from security threats. Furthermore, users of these products benefit from the flexibility to choose their own operating systems and run independently developed software. We need the law to catch up with how people are using technology.

Jailbreaking is helping to make technology better, more secure, and more flexible. Please defend the rights of users.

Thanks for enabling us to keep technology innovative, secure, and focused on the users.

bunnie Huang


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