Report from America's jailbreaking hearings

Wired's David Kravets reports from the Copyright Office's triennial hearings on exceptions to the DMCA's rules against breaking DRM. Every three years, public interest groups supplicate themselves before the Copyright Office and beg for our right to jailbreak our devices and look inside our own property. Every three years, entertainment lawyers show up and demand that nothing of the sort come to pass, because their clients can only survive if it's illegal for you to decide what programs you get to run on the devices you buy. It's all rather revolting, legal sausage-making at its wurst.

Christian Genetski, general counsel of the Entertainment Software Association, told the Copyright Office, whose panelists included its top attorneys and Maria Pallante, the register of copyrights, that freeing Americans to bypass access controls on videogame consoles would decimate the gaming business.

“It will gut videogame consoles’ piracy protections,” he said. “We’re here today because our copyright interests are at stake.”

Allowing such jailbreaking, Hofmann countered, would allow the so-called homebrew community of game developers to play their games on the machines, while also allowing researchers to use the consoles like computers in the furtherance of science.

But the regulators were not clear whether the videogame hack was necessary. They suggested scientists could use computers for their research, and homebrew gamers can play those, too, on their computers.

Robert Kasunic, deputy general counsel of the Copyright Office, suggested that the benefits don’t outweigh the tradeoffs to piracy.

“How do you balance, for instance, the use of being able to put Pong on a homebrew system with the numbers we are aware of in terms of videogame piracy?” he asked, noting that millions of videogames are already being shared without authorization on The Pirate Bay.

So yeah, the Copyright Office generally believes that your rights to your actual, physical property are trumped by multinationals' metaphorical property rights in the things they sell you.

It’s Tinkerers v. Hollywood as Copyright Office Mulls New Jailbreaking Rules


  1. “It’s all rather revolting, legal sausage-making at its wurst.”

    Definitely one of your Top 10. 

    1.  I’m sure we all know Cory’s point is that we shouldn’t have to ask permission to do whatever the f*ck we want with a piece of hardware we buy.
      What if the auto industry decided that it was illegal for you to use a roof rack on your car without their permission?

      And the excuse that you can play homebrew games on your computer instead is like saying you should just carry your skis on your shoulder while riding your vespa, because putting a roof rack on your Subaru will hurt Subaru’s bottom line.

      If I bought it, I should be allowed to do whatever I want with it, it simply makes sense.

  2. Wasn’t the Pirate Bay shutdown.  No one questions the idea that a non-existant website will and does enable the theft of something.  I think they need to stop havign banks because Bonnie and Clyde will rob them.

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