Washington - Cellphone owners who modify, or "jailbreak," a phone to run third-party applications not approved by the phone maker aren't violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the U.S. Copyright Office ruled.
The office also renewed a 2006 ruling allowing consumers and such businesses as cellphone recyclers to unlock cellphone handsets so they can be used on other cellular networks.
Every three years, the Copyright Office reviews the DMCA to determine whether to exempt actions that could be considered in violation of the act's prohibition against circumventing technologies that control access to copyrighted works, said the
(EFF), a lobbying group that supported the exemptions in hearings before the office.
In its ruling, the Copyright Office rejected Apple's claim that the DMCA prevents people from installing unapproved programs on iPhones, EFF said. "When one jailbreaks a smartphone in order to make the operating system on that phone interoperable with an independently created application that has not been approved by the maker of the smartphone or the maker of its operating system, the modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses," the Copyright Office said.
The ruling also clarified the legality of unlocking cellphones. The rule was modified to apply only to used mobile phones, not new ones, EFF said, ensuring that cellphone recyclers such as Wireless Alliance, ReCellular and Flipswap could recycle and resell handsets originally made for one network to operate on another. Digital locks make it harder to resell, reuse or recycle handsets, EFF said.
The ruling also continues to ensure that consumers who bought a phone locked to one network will be able to another network, but only if "access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network," the office ruled.
The Copyright Office, said EFF's civil liberties director Jennifer Granick, "recognizes that the primary purpose of the locks on cellphones is to bind customers to their existing networks, rather than to protect copyrights,"
In another ruling, the Copyright Office approved the circumvention of copy-control technology on DVDs, but only in such limited circumstances as educational use, documentary filmmaking and making other types of noncommercial videos.
Short portions of motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made, acquired and protected by the Content Scrambling System can be copied "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," the Copyright Office said.