The Library of Congress has codified a long-awaited exception to the DMCA that allows consumers to jailbreak/root devices in order to obtain and execute software by legal means that would not otherwise be allowed to run in the unmodified state of the handset.Â This makes the act of jailbreaking/rooting iPhone and Android devices legal, in the sense that a person cannot be prosecuted under the DMCA for bypassing such software restrictions.Â Below is the relevant statement in the DMCA exception:
â€œComputer 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.â€
Apple has previously taken stances against jailbreaking and unlocking with attempts to hinder the activity centering on software updates and the verification of software versions on iPhone via server side verification with varying degrees of success, while manufacturers and carriers such as Motorola and AT&T ship Android devices lacking select features, which require rooting in order to enable the missing functionality.
Additionally, the new language also expands handset unlocking to include software from the original firmware language added in 2006, clarifying the exception.
â€œComputer 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.â€
The above exceptions will be in place for three years, at which point the Librarian will conduct another audience in order to determine the next round of exceptions or codify current exceptions with expanded allowances for the state of technology and the marketplace at that point in the future.