In the US, matters of digital copyright legislation are overseen by the Library of Congress. And since the signing of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) way back in 1998 that covers these matters, not much has changed despite massive shifts in technology and consumer tech use since then.
Now, the LOC has finally granted some exemptions to the regulations surrounding consumer and after-market use of software and hardware. In a campaign that has taken the Electronic Frontier Foundation literally years, consumers are now free from prosecution if they unlock their own mobile devices, software and games that meet certain criteria, and more.
One of the bigger wins in this instance is the allowance to tinker with the software that powers modern cars. This was a hotly contested issue for some time as automakers didn’t want mechanics or consumers seeing what was really under the hood when it came to their proprietary software. Perhaps more than the lessening of restrictions on devices and games, this single regulation change stands to have the broadest impact on both consumer safety and environmental protection. For the first time, the EFF can soundly claim that fiascoes like the Volkswagen software scandal could potentially be prevented, because independent inspectors will no longer be barred from rooting out the code.
Some of the lesser contested changes include allowing consumers to jailbreak their own phones, something that has been in the works for some time. Advocates have long argued that barring the public from taking their out-of-contract smartphones to a different carrier strips them of consumer choice, but this new exemption goes even further towards allowing consumers to use any app store and content provider they choose. Gamers will appreciate the exemption that allows them to legally jailbreak software that has been shuttered by the developer, which is especially important for games that have lost their online-playability at the developers’ hands.