EFF – Fair Use Victory!

(I jailbreak my iPhone in commemoration of the day)

It’s a tumultuous time for digital rights, after the passing of the Digital Economy Act in the UK and Bill C32 which Hollywood Canada is attempting to pass, it’s surprising and encouraging to see a victory for “fair use” in the states – arguably the biggest bullies in the digital rights fiascos. Today (thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation) the Library of Congress passed a handful of exemptions to the DMCA (digital millennium copyright act), a law that prevents consumers/users from breaking digital locks on their products/devices.

Imagine, you purchase a bookshelf from Target and the only books you’re allowed to put on that bookshelf are books you purchase from Target’s abismal book selection. Furthermore, image you’ve filled that shelf with hundreds of dollars worth in Target purchased books, but now you want to buy a newer better bookshelf from Ikea for your collection, but you can’t legally (and without great difficulty) move your books from your Target shelf to your Ikea shelf. Imagine you can’t photocopy a page from any of those books for your school project. Imagine you can’t even lend any of your books to a friend. That’s exactly how it works with digital devices like the iPad thanks to the DMCA and digital locks (DRM) – and this goes much further than just migrating your media. Say you want to appropriate from a DVD to make a remix video or “jailbreak” your iPhone to use a new app someone created that hasn’t been approved by Apple or say you’re blind and want to take a digital book you’ve purchased and open it with your read-aloud software – all these actions require you to illegally break digital locks, and all these actions starting Tuesday will no longer be illegal!

Jennifer Stisa Granick, EFF’s civil liberties director, said the rules are based on an important principle: Consumers should be allowed to use and modify the devices that they purchase the way they want. ”If you bought it, you own it,” she said. (AP)

Though I’m excited, I can’t help but be just a tad skeptical. It seems like there’s still a lot of loose ends: if you “jailbreak” your iPhone will it still void your warranty? Does this mean it’s legal to sell software that breaks digital locks (DRM-ripping, iPhone jail breaking, etc.)? Breaking the lock on a DVD to remix the content is no longer illegal but how well will “fair use” hold up? Only time will tell. All in all, its a happy day for digital rights.

further reading:
Ruling Allows ‘Jailbreaking’ of iPhones
EFF wins enormous victory against DRM: legal to jailbreak iPhones, rip DVDs for mashup videos
Rulemaking Fixes Critical DMCA Wrongs
Public Knowledge and Rock Your Phone Pleased Copyright Office Expands Consumer Rights

One Response to “EFF – Fair Use Victory!”

  1. update: via PK: http://www.publicknowledge.org/blog/library-congresss-drm-exceptions-not-just-abo

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