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Advocacy Group Lobbies To Legalize Game Console 'Jailbreaking'

Advocacy Group Lobbies To Legalize Game Console 'Jailbreaking'

December 2, 2011 | By Eric Caoili

Following the U.S. Copyright Office's decision last year allowing users to "jailbreak" iPhones, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is seeking similar exemptions from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for other devices.

The digital rights advocacy group filed exemption requests to the Copyright Office today to protect "jailbreaking" -- overriding limitations on gadgets to run custom and unauthorized software -- on additional smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles.

Passed in 1998, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is designed to criminalize the circumvention of security measures, or digital rights management (DRM), protecting copyrighted digital works, such as video games, DVDs, and eBooks.

The law made headlines early this year when renowned "jailbreaker" George Hotz played a key role in circumventing security measures for Sony's PlayStation 3, and published the means to do so online. Sony sued Hotz, accusing him of facilitating software piracy, which Hotz denied. The two parties eventually settled the case.

EFF argues, though, that American consumers should be able to "run operating systems and applications from any source, not just those approved by the manufacturer" on electronic devices they've purchased, and wants to expand legal protections for that practice.

These proposed exemptions build on EFF's success last year in requesting that the Copyright Office absolve consumers who jailbreak their iPhones (another Hotz hardware target) to run unapproved software, or unlock them to work with other carriers -- despite opposition from Apple.

"The DMCA is supposed to block copyright infringement. But instead it can be misused to threaten creators, innovators, and consumers, discouraging them from making full and fair use of their own property," says EFF's IP director Corynne McSherry.

She argues, "Hobbyists and tinkerers who want to modify their phones or video game consoles to run software programs of their choice deserve protection under the law."

The Copyright Office will hold its hearings on the proposed exemptions in the spring of 2012, and is expected to present a final rulemaking order in October 2012.

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