The Engadget Interview: the EFF’s Mitch Stoltz talks the legality of jailbreaking
By Brian Heater Feb 4th 2012
The work of a non-profit advocacy group is never done. It seems like just yesterday that the Electronic Frontier Foundation was waging a battle to put jailbreaking rights into the hands of consumers, much to the chagrin of manufacturers intent on maintaining control over their devices after they leave store shelves. With the looming expiration of an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that has made such hacks legal, the organization is once again taking up the cause. And this time, it’s added tablets and gaming consoles to its proposal. We sat down with EFF staff attorney Mitch Stoltz to discuss the state of the law and how users can help in the fight.
Why is the debate over the legality of jailbreaking suddenly in the news again?
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act has an exemptions process. The Library of Congress every three years makes exemptions to the law. Those have to be renewed, so we’re coming up on the next cycle. In the last cycle, the EFF asked for an exemption so that you can jailbreak a smartphone that you own, to run your own software on it, so that wouldn’t be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, section 1201.
The idea behind this cycle is that the technology itself is evolving, so you may have to reevaluate the thinking behind it.
I think that was the reason, but in certain ways it seems a little ridiculous to have to present justifications every few years. You could make the case that technology changes and needs change, but it certainly puts a big administrative burden on people who are defending people rights, just to use their own devices.