February 7, 2012 | By Mitch Stoltz

Letters to the Copyright Office: Why I Jailbreak

EFF has asked the U.S. Copyright Office to declare that jailbreaking smartphones, tablets, and game consoles does not violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and there are only two days left to submit comments to the Copyright Office, or to sign on to letters supporting our exemption requests from video game system hacker bunnie Huang and “Everything is a Remix” filmmaker Kirby Ferguson. We’ve already heard from many device users who have spoken up to explain why installing the software they choose on the devices they own should stay legal.

Kevin McLeod is a deaf man who uses his Android phone — a Samsung Epic 4G — to assist him with communication, record-keeping, and time management. Like many deaf people, he uses video relay service (VRS) software on his phone to “work on a level playing field with hearing peers and have productive and meaningful careers.” He had these comments for the Copyright Office:

I need a phone that can run VRS software through the day without having to recharge every other hour. The stock phone I received can't do that. I had to upgrade to a more powerful battery. Then I installed an alternative version of the Android operating system called CleanGB that removes most of the carrier-installed software. This freed up memory and battery resources I need to stay connected.

We need the ability to modify our devices because manufacturers and carriers can't possibly anticipate all the needs of their customers. We need flexibility to make the most of the terrific tools they build for us. I love the power and connectivity my phone gives me. I love that I can customize it to meet my unique needs.

And Tom Van Nostrand sent these comments from Kuwait:

I work on an Army base in the middle east and at night it is very dark. Often times for my job I have walk outside the trailer, and there's  rocks, scorpions, Spiny-Tailed Lizards, wild dogs etc to look out for outside.

[…]

I jailbreak my phone specifically so that I can set a button to immediately turn on the "flashlight" on my camera when I need it. Please do NOT make it against the law for me to be safe while supporting the U.S. Army's troops.

Stephanie Hughes had this to say:

I am a nurse and the customizations I can make to my devices after jailbreaking increase my productivity and success in my job every day.  I can track my performance, treatments used on patients, and the effects of those treatments, much faster with customizations that are not available on a device that is not jailbroken.

Reasons for jailbreaking personal devices are as varied as the people who use them, but they share two common themes: one, the law shouldn't interfere with people's use of their own devices, and two, personal devices can't reach their full potential when manufacturers artificially limit their uses. If you have a compelling story for the Copyright Office, submit your comments today and sign on to the Jailbreaking Is Not a Crime and Rip Mix Make letters.


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