EFF in the News
The Electronic Frontier Foundation and hackers everywhere scored a victory this week when the Library of Congress's Copyright Office ruled that users can legally jailbreak their phones - particularly Apple's iPhone.
Washington gets a taste of the digital age as the government is left almost powerless to stop entities such as WikiLeaks, which operates mostly from abroad, from publishing secret documents.
What has changed is not the law, but the number and variety of sources of information, said Cindy Cohn, legal director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "The Internet has given all the rest of us a megaphone," she said. "Now, the government can't arm twist a publisher and convince him not to publish."
Jennifer Stisa Granick, EFF's civil liberties director, said the rules are based on an important principle: Consumers should be allowed to use and modify the devices that they purchase the way they want. "If you bought it, you own it," she said.
If you pay full price for a piece of hardware -- say an iPhone -- it seems only fair that you should be able to do with it whatever you want. Hit it with hammer. Drop it in a blender. Mess with its operating system. You bought it. You own it. The company could hardly be expected to honor warranties for a deliberately broken iPhone.
But it's been locked in battle with the Electronic Frontier Foundation over its right to do so. The EFF, as only seems right, won. The Copyright Office on Monday issued a fair use exemption that explicitly states what common sense suggests: jailbreaking an iPhone is not illegal.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has claimed credit for winning three critical exemptions. "By granting all of EFF's applications, the Copyright Office and Librarian of Congress have taken three important steps today to mitigate some of the harms caused by the DMCA," Jennifer Granick, EFF's Civil Liberties Director, said in a statement. "We are thrilled to have helped free jailbreakers, unlockers and vidders from this law's overbroad reach."
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the San Francisco-based civil liberties group, had requested that the Copyright Office expand the number of exceptions in the DMCA, which has been a focus of controversy among programmers, hackers, and security researchers for over a decade. The DMCA broadly restricts, but does not flatly ban, bypassing copy protection technology.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation asked regulators 19 months ago to add jailbreaking to a list of explicit exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provisions.
The EFF contended that the iPhone’s embedded protection system was implemented by Apple as a business decision to prevent competition and is unrelated to copyright interests.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation drove three deep wedges into the US prohibition on breaking DRM today. EFF had applied to the Copyright Office to grant exemptions permitting the cracking of DRM in three cases: first, to "jailbreak" a mobile device, such as an iPhone, where DRM is used to prevent phone owners from running software of their own choosing; second, to allow video remix artists to break the DRM on DVDs in order to take short excerpts for mashups posted to YouTube and other sharing sites; finally EFF got the Copyright Office to renew its ruling that made it legal to unlock cellphones so that they can be used with any carrier.
Corynne McSherry, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco digital rights organization, said most of the parodies meet the four basic tests for determining fair use, at least under U.S. copyright laws. McSherry said the videos aren't done to make money, they transform the original work, they use only short portions of the film, and they don't harm the market for the movie.
Those of you who rarely if ever read the Terms of Service on social networking websites can breathe a temporary sigh of relief. With help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a Northern California US District Judge has dismissed Facebook's lawsuit against Power.com—at least for now. Still, all in all, "good news," says EFF's Marcia Hoffman, who filed an amicus brief in the case. "Another federal judge has ruled that violating a website terms of service is not a crime."