EFF launches petition campaign to keep jailbreaking legal

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is asking the public to join the campaign to keep and widen exemptions EFF obtained in 2010 to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to help remove a cloud of legal uncertainty hanging over folks who modify electronic gadgets and make remix videos.

“The DMCA is supposed to block copyright infringement, but it’s been misused to threaten tinkerers and users who just want to make their devices more secure and more functional,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann in the press release. “The U.S. Copyright Office should hear from concerned Americans who want to run software of their choice on the gadgets of their choice.”

“The Internet has helped foster extraordinary and powerful new forms of commentary that rely, in part, on the ordinary activity of borrowing clips of news and popular culture,” said EFF IP Director Corynne McSherry in the press release. “This is part of our everyday political debate and should be protected by copyright law, not discouraged.”

The exemptions EFF won for smartphones and remix videos in 2010 will expire if they are not renewed. So in December, EFF filed comments urging the Copyright Office to not only renew the exemptions, but expand them. Specifically, EFF asked that the office protect the “jailbreaking” of smartphones, electronic tablets, and video game systems – freeing them to run operating systems and applications from any source. EFF also asked for legal protections for artists and critics who use excerpts from DVDs or Internet video services to create new, remixed works.

Now, the Copyright Office is asking for public comment on the proposed exemptions and EFF is seeking the public’s help. In EFF’s Jailbreaking Is Not a Crime campaign, you can sign a letter written by author and hacker bunnie Huang, advocating for expanded jailbreaking exemptions to protect security researchers and other tinkerers and innovators. In the Rip. Mix. Make. Campaign, you can join video artist, educator, and author Kirby Ferguson in calling for wider exemptions for breaking video encryption for creative purposes.

Both campaigns are part of the official comment period of the Copyright Office’s rulemaking process, convened every three years to consider exemptions to the DMCA’s prohibitions on “circumventing” digital rights management and “other technical protection measures” used to protect copyrighted works. In passing the DMCA, Congress allowed the Copyright Office to create certain kinds of exemptions to help mitigate the harms the law causes to legitimate, non-infringing use of copyrighted materials.

“Overreaching copyright law can hurt Americans’ free expression and innovation rights. That’s what we are fighting in Congress with the Internet blacklist bills like SOPA and PIPA, and it’s what we are fighting here,” said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz in the press release. “Please help Kirby defend the right to rip, mix, and make, and join bunnie in telling the Copyright Office that jailbreaking is not a crime.”

For Jailbreaking Is Not a Crime:

For Rip. Mix. Make.:


  1. One of the casualties of the DMCA was a small company that made toner cartridges for Lexmark laser printers. Lexmark added a chip to their cartridge, then used the DMCA to shut the company down when they reverse-engineered the chip to offer cheaper toner. All it takes is installing some recognition chip with an encrypted code ID to shut out all competition.

    DMCA is a bad law resulting from too much RIAA/MPAA influence in DC.

    1. Internet access allows people to steal software and media, sow seeds of dissent, and coordinate revolutionaries.

      So do computers.

      So do telephones.

      So do cars, and freedom of association (sneakernet).

      At what point do you recognize that just because something *can* be done with a tool, that it has perfectly legitimate purposes beyond the “think of the children/terrorists/economy” boogeymen?

      My iPhone was jailbroken for a long time, I tried a bunch of mods and apps, some were cool, others were wastes of time (like any app from the app store, really). I didn’t pirate a single app. By the end, the only reason I kept it jailbroken was the ability to change the screen brightness without having to exit the app I was in, launch System Prefs, and go to Brightness. Because Apple doesn’t allow any other way to change the iPhone brightness (and other commonly-changed settings).

      1. Why piss around continually changing brightness? In the three years or so I’ve owned and used iPhones I’ve never, ever felt the need to manually change brightness.
        And out of all of the many apps on my phone, all obtained from the AppStore, there isn’t a single one that I can think of that would be improved by a jailbroken alternative. Every one I use does exactly the job I obtained it for. If an app failed to do that it gets junked. If you can’t find any apps that do what you want from Apple’s store, then you must have some pretty arcane requirements far removed from what regular phone users require.

        1. Good for you that you never felt the need to change brightness. That does jack all for me. Many people do. That’s why there’s a brightness control in the first place. FYI on iPad there IS a second way to change brightness, so clearly there’s demand for it.

          For me, autobrightness simply can’t fully adjust between reading in complete darkness (in bed before going to sleep) and full daylight in the morning. So yeah, I turn it all the way down at night, then back around the middle in the morning.

          And “arcane requirements”… give me a break and think different (from Apple). See the Notifications pulldown screen in iOS5? It behaves and provides (some of) the functionality of several pre-iOS5 jailbroken apps and utilities. I guess that’s some seriously arcane stuff Apple put in for no reason.

    2. That’s just it, most jailbreaking is done to steal something from someone. It also opens up, at least iOS devices, to malware.

      The EFF is going to have a hard time proving it is just doing it for the curious tinkerers and innovators of this world. The large majority of their supporters are thieves and pirates.

      Just saying.

      1. Read my comment above. You took an idiotic assertion, and increased it an order of magnitude of idiocy by implying most EFF supporters are thieves and pirates.

        Just saying.

        1. Speaking of idiotic assertions, so far there is you and the guys behind the EFF who aren’t thieves and pirates.

          Now, I know that most Android phone users Jailbreak or get someone to jailbreak for them. Their motive is to get free stuff 9 times out of ten.

          You say there are several ways to steal, I’m just pointing out that jailbreaking is defiantly one of them.

          It just stands to reason that the guys getting free stuff are behind the move to keep the warehouse doors open.

          1. “Now, I know that most Android phone users Jailbreak or get someone to jailbreak for them. Their motive is to get free stuff 9 times out of ten.”

            No sh&t? Where do you get your stats? Please inform us so that we don’t relegate your idiotic assertion as a, well, um, an idiotic assertion.

          2. So what if jailbreaking is “definitely one [way to steal]”? So are all the others!

            Have a computer? You must have pirated music; surely that’s the only explanation for having a computer, since you can easily run your iPhone completely independently from one and just download all your music from the iTunes app.

            Are you American? Or from any western civilized nation? Because innocent unless proven guilty seems to be a completely foreign concept to you.

            1. Well, this is not exactly a court of law for your “presumption of innocence” doctrine to be invoked; you won’t be sent to jail by this forum if convicted…

              It has been widely documented that vast majority of jailbroken phones actually contain illegally obtained software (i.e. pirated copies, not paid for). There are no doubt many users like mossman, who jailbreak for other reasons (making a political statement about “freedom”, getting some functionality not available in the stock OS, etc). However, we all know that realistically, vast majority of jailbreakers actually DOES have legitimate, non-free apps that were obtained illegally from sources outside the App Store for free. No amount of protesting “innocent until proven guilty” will change this.

              Having said that, legislating jailbreaking is grossly overreaching. There is nothing inherently unconstitutional (or illegal) in a process of slightly modifying an OS for non-illicit reasons. Existing laws cover pretty much all possible scenarios of illegitimate use. Nothing prevents Apple from making jailbreaking difficult (or impossible), as well as writing restrictions thereto in their license agreement (as well as enforcing them, if they wish). They will certainly continue to create obstacles in order to marginalise jailbreaking, but I doubt that even Apple would want to have an actual law enacted that would specifically make it illegal to modify OS the way jailbreaking does it. Based on the current percentage of jailbreakers, out of the existing 350 million iOS devices, they simply can’t really be bothered.

            2. Predrag, thanks for writing a reasonable response.

              I know jailbreaking is used by many to load pirated apps and utilities to circumvent carrier restrictions, but althegeo’s blanket and inflammatory accusation that all jailbreakers and EFF supporters MUST be thieves and using them for those purposes required a response that illustrated how ludicrous his position is. The same excuse (pirated music, movies, software, plus hacking) could be used to argue for legislation to lock down all computers.

              Indeed MDN is not a court of law, and althegeo can spout anything he wants (well not quite–MDN is a private organization so it’s not restricted by the 1st Amendment), but such emotional, reactionary thinking is used to ram all sorts of bad legislation through, so in a few years it could indeed be the basis for criminal proceedings in a court of law. “Think of the children/gun violence/drug violence/terrorists/communists/economy” have been used for years to pass legislation that would be intolerable to the public if presented logically and rationally.

  2. Yeah…

    “Let us take your IP and do whatever the f*ck we want to with it… FREE USE FOR ALL!!!!” In the name of FAIRNESS!! Woohoo!!

    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but that’s called STEALING.

    Perhaps you’ve never heard of the 8th commandment. Or, you have and you just don’t give a rat’s ar*e.

    There is no justification for theft; even if you’re hiding within a committee.

    “For the greater good”, my ass… it’s THEFT.

    1. jail breaking is not theft,
      It allows more use of the phone beyond the limitations originally in the phone.
      While it does open the phone to places that allow you to install stolen property, there is no pressure to do so. It’s your choice

    2. Would you mind telling me what exactly is stolen from whom someone jailbreaks a phone after purchasing it?

      You might understand what stealing is, and you might understand what jailbreaking is, but I you don’t think you understand both.

      1. When a phone is jail broken, the user is able to put Apps on that phone that break agreements made between the phone owner and the service provider, like tethering.

        That is stealing.

        The user is also able to put pirated Apps on their phone.

        That is stealing.

        When jailbreaking, the user is also breaking the end user agreement they signed when they activated their phone. This is, in effect, stealing the manufacturers/software owners IP.

        That is stealing.

        You may be buying a phone but you are also signing a contract with the manufacturer/software maker and, in most cases, with a service provider.

        Jailbreaking breaks all of those contracts.

        That is stealing.

        Not paying for Apps, Air time, and screwing with the software on a phone are all illegal, even though you think you own the phone. You do not own the patented hardware and software on that phone.

          1. After reading his drivel, I can only conclude he’s been brainwashed by the recording industries to think anything not sanctioned by them counts as stealing.

            Humming a tune? That’s stealing, since it’s a public performance of a copyrighted work without paying cover or roualties.

  3. As a developer with a lot of revenue from app sales from the app store, I have to say that I don’t have a problem with jail breaking at this point. Anything that promotes the iOS platform is good for me in the long run. Of course some people will pirate my apps and not pay me, but that is just means that there are more installations of my apps and more free advertising. I also feel that Apple is publicly pushing against jail breaking, but they are not making it impossible to jailbreak iOS on purpose.

  4. To those commies up there who want to lock down the iPhone…go suck my ass. I bought the iPhone. Ergo I can do whatever the hell I want with it, including jailbreaking and yes installing unauthorised software & apps. For those of you too stupid to understand jailbreaking confers freedom of choice, it doesn’t necessarily mean or lead to piracy. Get your priorities straight.

    There’s a reason why communism is so appealing to the masses. It brainwashes them from the truth…that freedom of choice unshackles uus from.

    1. As usual, you are completely mistaken. You signed an end user agreement for both the phone and the service provider. You may be able to do what the hell you want with your phone but if you are caught stealing air time or installing software that attacks the network you will be liable and will be prosecuted.

      If you jailbreak you could be prosecuted by the feds, the service provider and maybe even the manufacturer/software owner. If that wasn’t possible the EFF wouldn’t be whining about it.

      By the way, capitalism is all about protecting your IP. Communism has nothing to do with the argument. You didn’t get that right either.

    1. Sorry, but from my perspective and an Apple champion AND critic, you sound like quite an idiot. As I posted below:

      Apple has the RIGHT and the DUTY to keep their walled garden, which I find to be EXCELLENT and SAFE.

      Go live in the rat infested weed hole if you like. But don’t make me go. I refuse!

  5. Well it looks like we have a troll in @althegeo. That or a apple employee trying to scare everyone. If you’re such an apple fanboy, then perhaps you should start “thinking different” instead of being brainwashed by the RIAA and so on. Next year after SOPA and a myriad of other bills pass, if you turn on your computer, a government official will have to sit next to you and monitor your activities. If an official is not available, you will have to wait a week until he is before you use your computer. All because you have the POTENTIAL to use it for pirating and stealing. Its bad enough they all know what sites we’ve been to already. Sites that cache what device, and browser you are using to try to sell you stuff for that device next time you visit that page. Now THAT should be illegal, but its not. Go Figure!

  6. Much as I LOVE the EFF, support them and champion them, this is a SHITE IDEA and will thankfully FAIL.

    Apple has the RIGHT and the DUTY to keep their walled garden, which I find to be EXCELLENT and SAFE.

    Go living in the rat infested weed hole if you like. But don’t make me go. I refuse!

    1. no one is making you do anything. They are trying to ensure those of us who want to jailbreak can! Nothing to do with you at all and your life won’t change one bit if the EFF wins this. in fact you’ll have a freedom available that you can choose not to use.

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