Revision of DRM Laws Allows Jailbreaking Mobile Devices, Modifying Abandoned Games

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AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

For years, a very curious corner of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act has prevented lawful owners of a digital device or product from making use of their own products in any way not explicitly permitted by the creators.

Every three years, public interest groups like the Electronics Frontier Foundation get a brief window of rebuttal. If you couldn’t hear the howls of various executives from here, let me be the first to inform you of a hard-fought victory — albeit not one without major caveats.

General Motors, alongside John Deere, and virtually the entire movie and games industry, were taken down a notch by the lobbying efforts of the EFF and a host of other public interest non-profits. The hearings did a lot to move the chains in favor of consumers, including allowing making modifications to cars, jailbreaking “portable all-purpose mobile computing devices” such as phones and tablets, modding games that require online authentication to be played that have been abandoned by their creators, and ripping content from DVDs and Blu-Rays for the purposes of “noncommercial remix videos.”

Now for the bad news. To jailbreak your mobile device, you’re going to have to do it yourself. Any service provided to help you is still illegal. Second, there are restrictive wait periods until you are legally permitted to do so, and in most cases that will put the device past the point of obsolescence. If you’re specifically talking about video games, the restrictions are even tighter; only PC games are eligible, and only those which verify through server-side online DRM.

Yet even despite a flood of restrictions inhibiting the actual practice of — even lawfully — using your device as you want, these hearings have still begun a shift toward far more rational laws and regulations regarding the devices we all use on a daily basis. In three years, maybe the Librarian of Congress will even be able to tell the difference between an iPad and a laptop. Baby steps.

Follow Nate Church on Twitter @Get2Church.