New updates to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act state that circumventing copyright security locks on game software and handsets like iPhone is legal -- but there are important stipulations.
The U.S. Copyright Office on Monday detailed exemptions
from technological circumvention laws that are meant to protect digital copyrighted work. The Librarian of Congress revisits copyright law every three years to review possible classes of work that are recommended for exemption.
Among the new exemptions, according to the Librarian of Congress, are "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."
One stipulation is that 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."
Perhaps more importantly to copyright holders, "The information derived from the security testing [must be] used or maintained in a manner that does not facilitate copyright infringement or a violation of applicable law."
The Librarian of Congress also said that computer programs used to circumvent security locks in wireless telephone handsets are also exempt from DMCA prohibitions, as long as the 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."
This opens up the legality of running applications not approved by Apple -- such as games -- to run on "jailbreak" iPhones that have had their security locks disengaged (jailbreaking still voids the warranty). But all other copyright laws apply, so it's still illegal to run pirated apps on a jailbreak iPhone. Apple, which can still update wireless device firmware to reject unauthorized apps, previously tried disputing the legality of jailbreaking, saying it violates company copyrights.
Another exemption also said it is legal to use a computer program to circumvent security locks in order to connect to a wireless network, as long as the network operator authorizes that access.
Other new circumvention exemptions include short portions of movies on DVD as long as the content obtained through digital circumvention are used for educational purposes by schools, documentary filmmaking and noncommercial videos.