Need to fix an iPhone? You can now break DRM under new U.S. rules

“It’s now legal for consumers and repair firms to break an electronic device’s DRM protections to repair it, according to a ruling by the U.S. Copyright Office,” Liam Tung reports for ZDNet. “The rules are part of newly adopted exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits circumventing digital rights management (DRM) protections used to safeguard copyrighted works.”

“The new ruling, which comes into effect on October 28, affects the legality of owners and professional repairers bypassing access controls on devices for specific purposes, for example, for repairs, jailbreaking, unlocking a device from a carrier’s network, accessibility, and education,” Tung reports. “The ruling covers an array of devices, including smartphones, tablets, mobile hotspots, wearables, smart TVs, vehicles — including cars and tractors, as well as smart home appliances like refrigerators, Nest-like devices, and HVAC systems. Specifically, the rules permit circumvention of access-control features to maintain or repair them.”

“Security researchers are also exempt from the rules when hacking computer programs, such as electronic voting systems, so long as the activity is carried out in good faith and doesn’t break the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,” Tung reports. “Jailbreaking smartphones was already allowed under existing exemptions, and now this situation has been expanded to include smart speakers, like Google Home and Amazon Echo devices.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: Some additional info:

“Encouraging as this all is, there is one important and infuriating element to keep in mind: while the Copyright Office grants ‘use exemptions,’ it does not believe it has the right to make ‘tools exemptions’ — exemptions that would allow an expert to make a tool for disabling DRM so that you can make the uses they’ve permitted you to make,” Cory Doctorow writes for Boing Boing. “In other words, the Copyright Office says, ‘You’re allowed to jailbreak your iPhone, but no one is allowed to give you an iPhone jailbreaking tool, and if you make a tool for your own use you can’t share it or even tell people how it works.'”

Who does DRM punish, exactly?

DRM punishes “people who want to do legitimate things, like fix their stuff, or format-shift their stuff, or just buy some third-party ink and have it work with their printer,” Doctorow writes. “These are the only people DRM works against (otherwise, granting ‘use exemptions’ would be pointless). If these people wanted to do things that broke the law — like making infringing copies of Bluray movies — the law already allows companies to punish them. DRM doesn’t exist to protect companies’ rights, it exists to let them invent new rights (the right to decide which screen you can watch a movie on, for example), and then make those rights legally enforceable, by adding illegal-to-remove DRM to their products.”

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