Jailbreaking Tablets Deemed Illegal By The U.S. Copyright Office

The iPad Mini is shown in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. Apple Inc. is refusing to compete on price with its rival
The iPad Mini is shown in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. Apple Inc. is refusing to compete on price with its rivals in the tablet market — it's pricing its new, smaller iPad well above the competition. On Tuesday, the company revealed the iPad Mini, with a screen that's about two-thirds the size of the full-size model, and said it will cost $329 and up. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Go ahead, jailbreak your cellphone. But just know that tablet computer of yours is off limits.

The U.S. Copyright Office published a document on Oct. 26, specifying that while jailbreaking a smartphone is deemed legal, the same rules do not apply to gaming consoles or tablets like Apple's iPad or the Microsoft Surface.

According to CNET, the Copyright Office accepts requests every three years from "digital rights proponents and opponents" to alter laws under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This legislation was passed in 1998 and, fittingly, was put into effect in 2000. The American Library Association defines the act as a way for "U.S. copyright law to meet the demands of the Digital Age." In short, amendments to this act change the legality of practices like jailbreaking, or unlocking, your gadgets.

The updated document (seen here) states the following:

It permits the circumvention of computer programs on mobile phones to enable interoperability of non-vendor approved software applications (often referred to as “jailbreaking”), but does not apply to tablets – as had been requested by proponents – because the record did not support it.

So which organizations wanted consumers to legally be allowed to jailbreak their devices? The legal papers show that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, New Media Rights, Mozilla Corporation and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) were all proponents.

The Copyright Office cites several reasons as to why cellphones can legally undergo the process of jailbreaking, while other devices are excluded from this freedom. Explanations are provided below:

  • The Verge reports that the government documents explain how "video games are far more difficult and complex to produce than smartphone applications."
  • The Next Web specifies that "the exemption appears to be granted to smartphones because they had been widely adopted, more so than tablets."
  • The documents state the definition of a tablet computer is "broad and ill-defined," as argued by opponents of legalizing jailbreaking.
  • The Verge also notes that by January 2013 you will, in essence, "need permission from your carrier to legally unlock any phone," as the terms of authorized jailbreaking have been narrowed.

Still, how long will many of these laws be applicable? For example, the idea that smartphones are more widely adapted than tablets could be an outdated concept by 2015. Either way, the updated copyright laws will be implemented on Oct. 28, 2012 and remain in effect for three years.

What are your thoughts on the Copyright Office's amendments? What makes sense and what seems completely ridiculous? Tell us your opinions in the comments section, or tweet us your response to this article at [@HuffPostTech]. Then read more about the latest anti-piracy rules (here), or flip through the slideshow below of the top nine countries downloading the most illegal music.

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