If you think you own your tablet and can put any software you want on it, think again. The U.S. government just made it officially illegal to “jailbreak” your tablet, while also saying it was ok to jailbreak your smartphone.When you “jailbreak” your mobile device, you alter it so that it can run programs that were not approved to run on it — for instance, running Nintendo-style apps on your Android tablet, or running a whole list of unapproved apps on the iPad.
But is it legal? Yes and no.
Late last week, the Librarian of Congress issued the latest set of exemptions to a copyright law that covers this kind of thing, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It said that smartphones were exempt and that tablets were not.
In other words, if you jailbreak your iPhone you can’t be sued for DMCA violations. But if you jailbreak your iPad, you can, even though you would be running the same jailbreaking app on the same operating system, just on a larger device.
The law also made it illegal to copy DVDs for personal use – such as watching the movie on your iPad – and as of January 2013, made it illegal to unlock a new smartphones to switch carriers. It will still be legal to unlock a phone you bought before January 2013 to switch carriers.
Timothy Lee on Ars Technica has put together a great argument as to why this law and its exceptions make no sense.
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