The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was first passed back in 1998, at a time when the term “jailbreaking” did not even exist. It was passed mainly to prevent bypassing of Digital Rights Management technology. Back then, it was also established that DMCA could have its own exemptions. Yesterday, a new set of exemptions were announced for the DMCA, which will come into effect on October 28, and will continue to be valid for three years until 2015.
These exemptions announced by the DMCA are extremely arbitrary, and their poorly defined scope undermines the premise of having DMCA in the first place. Ars Technica puts together these discrepancies as-
The new batch of exemptions illustrate the fundamentally arbitrary nature of the DMCA’s exemption process. For the next three years, you’ll be allowed to jailbreak smartphones but not tablet computers. You’ll be able to unlock phones purchased before January 2013 but not phones purchased after that. It will be legal to rip DVDs to use an excerpt in a documentary, but not to play it on your iPad.
Apparently, Tablets were excluded from jailbreaking because the definition of tablets is too broad at the moment. The deadline of January 2013 for unlocking phones has no explanation as well, but the most disappointing news from this exemption list is related to unlocking of smartphones.
Jailbreaking of phones was already legal according to the DMCA. However, according to this revised law, phones cannot be jailbroken anymore without the permission of the carrier. DMCA’s argument against unlocking was a comparison with software purchase, which says that you are essentially licensing the software for use according to the EULA, but you cannot claim ownership on the software.
If DMCA can be so flexible that it takes concepts of software purchase and applies them to hardware purchase, how is it so rigid to allow the same freedom on one device, and take away that freedom on another?