The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) limits the circumvention of software that’s designed to restrict access to copyrighted works. Unfortunately, such a blanket restriction can chill competition, free speech, and fair use. In an attempt to mitigate those harms, every three years the U.S. Copyright Office holds a rulemaking proceeding to consider exemptions to this rule. EFF has participated in this rulemaking procedure for many years, and has secured exemptions for device unlocking, jailbreaking, ripping videos for remix, and more.

In the 2021 proceeding, we’re requesting exemptions for repair, diagnosis, and modification of any software-enabled device, including everything from digital cameras and e-readers to automated litterboxes and robotic pets; and jailbreaking streaming video devices like the Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire Stick (which we believe is already covered by the current exemption for jailbreaking smart TVs). We’re also requesting renewal of the existing exemptions for jailbreaking smartphones, tablets, and other all-purpose mobile computing devices, smart TVs, or voice assistant devices; and diagnosis or repair of smartphones, home appliances, or home systems.

Over the next few months, we’ll be presenting evidence to the Copyright Office to support these exemptions. Many other organizations have filed exemption requests as well. All of these exemption proposals can be viewed on the Copyright Office website.