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US Library of Congress: It's legal to unlock iPhones

Posted: 28 Jul 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IPTV? STB? networks?

The US Librarian of Congress has ruled that consumers, educational institutions and others may develop software applications that allow them to unlock electronic equipment and bypass restrictions placed on such devices by manufacturers.

The process, known in technology circles as "jailbreaking," would allow hackers and others to modify a range of electronic equipment, including Apple Inc.'s iPhone and encrypted CDs, to enable the use of such devices.

The announcement puts an end to the cat-and-mouse game Apple has for years played with hackers since it introduced the iPhone in the United States by restricting its use solely to the AT&T Corp. network. Since then, hackers have repeatedly developed software applications that would allow non-AT&T customers use the iPhone on competing networks.

Librarian of Congress James Billington on Monday (July 26) issued a revision of Section 1201 of copyright law and identified six classes of works that can be exempted from the "statute's prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work."

Billington is by law required to issue a revision of the copyright law every three years.

The six exempted groups are:

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

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.

4. Video games accessible on personal computers and protected by technological protection measures that control access to lawfully obtained works, when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing for, investigating, or correcting security flaws or vulnerabilities, if: (i) The information derived from the security testing is used primarily to promote the security of the owner or operator of a computer, computer system, or computer network; and (ii) The information derived from the security testing is used or maintained in a manner that does not facilitate copyright infringement or a violation of applicable law.

5. Computer programs protected by dongles that prevent access due to malfunction or damage and which are obsolete. A dongle shall be considered obsolete if it is no longer manufactured or if a replacement or repair is no longer reasonably available in the commercial marketplace; and

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.

- Bolaji Ojo
EE Times

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