Jailbreaking your tablet and TV is now legal, reviving old games is not


Every 36 months, the Library of Congress (LoC) meets up to discuss the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), particularly its 1201 provision that has been used in the past to illegalize various activities such as unlocking your carrier-bound smartphone or sharing passwords of paid services with your friends. After the meeting is concluded, changes usually follow and this year was no different as the LoC has announced a varying list of exemptions that will last until the next meeting.

According to the LoC, people are still allowed to unlock their smartphones, tablets and virtually any connected device including wearables. Jailbreaking and homebrew software is another matter entirely though there was a small victory there too. Previously, the group allowed jailbreaking of smartphones, a decision which has now been extended to include tablets and smart TVs. Doing so in any other device is still illegal, especially when video game consoles are concerned.

In fact, the LoC folk had some very specific comments to make about video games and copyrighting in general. According to them, legalizing console modifications means allowing piracy as the two are so closely connected and there are no legal distinctions between homebrew and pirated software. Of course, laws do not suddenly drop out of the sky as they need lawmakers to create them but copyright protection is apparently more important than the freedom of doing whatever you want in a product you purchased.

But I digress. The EFF managed to score another small victory in the realm of video games as the LoC meeting concluded that specific groups and organizations would be allowed to modify defunct old games so that they can bring them to a playable state again but with severe limitations such as not being able to construct unofficial servers for online player. The decision mostly concerned museums and other organizations that want to showcase games and not regular people who would like to play their favorite games once again. The decision does make some sense though it is still annoying for fans of older titles.