When it comes to Android or mobile OS platforms in general there is so much "baggage" about copyrighting and infringement it could drive a sane person crazy. There are countless government committees for such things and they in turn create acts like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. For those of you who don't know what the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is, I suggest you stop right now, turn to Google search and find out what it is before you head any further into this article. At least if you want any of it to make sense.
The DMCA was developed and passed by Congress in 1998. The act gave the 'Librarian of Congress' all kinds of power, and exemptions are one of those powers. The latest batch of exemptions was just dished out on Thursday and it could very well affect us in the Android Community. There are 5 categories altogether of circumvention that will now be "exempted," but we'll only touch on those important in aspect to Android. These 'exemptions' will take place October 28, 2012.
Here's the general idea of what will happen. For the next three years you can 'jailbreak' your phones! Did she just say jailbreak? Yes, as a matter of fact I did! However, this only pertains to phones, and NOT tablets. Well, I guess we can't have it all can we? You can also unlock any phones you have that were purchased before January 2013. Okay, I'm dreaming right? The kicker to that one is that any phone purchased after January 2013 no longer fits within that 'exemption.' It's definitely a weird set of logic, but we are dealing with the government so it should come as no surprise really.
eBooks and Disability Access
This exemption rule pertains to:
"....literary works, distributed electronically, that are protected by technological measures which either prevent the enabling of read-aloud functionality or interfere with screen readers or other applications or assistive technologies."
If you didn't understand that, it's okay I didn't either the first couple times I read it. It takes some time to try understand it, but you will get there. What this exemption will do is allow a wider range of e-books across multiple platforms. There are several titles that are "inaccessible due to fragmentation within the industry and differing technical standards and accessibility capabilities." What does that mean? It means for a person to get a good range of e-book titles they would have to own multiple devices like a Nook, Kindle, and iPad. This exemption should alleviate some of this issue.
This rule allows 'circumvention' of :
""computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset."
The english terms to this is that jailbreaking will now be allowed. The question was then raised that if handsets could be exempted what about tablets? Sorry folks, but tablets are a no go as of right now. The "Librarian of Congress stated:
"On the other hand, the Register concluded that the record did not support an extension of the exemption to "tablet" devices. The register found significant merit to the opposition's concerns that this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined, as a wide range of devices might be considered 'tablets,' notwithstanding the significant distinctions among them in terms of the way they operate, their intended purposes, and the nature of the applications they can accommodate. For example, an e-book reading device might be considered a 'tablet,' as might a handheld video game device or a laptop computer."
In other words, they felt that the definition of "tablet" was too broad for any exemptions to be made. Make sense to you? Me neither. According to them, an e-book reader could be defined as a tablet just as much as a "handheld" gaming device or laptop. Wow, I mean they are really make this one aspect a mess. It would seem strange that they are claiming 'tablet' is too broad of a term! I mean really? Phones are considered "telephone handsets" which makes (what the Librarian claims) easier to "nail down," and "thus easier to cover in the law." I think that is some fancy way to say, "Hey, we don't want to cover tablet's yet and have to do more work." As I continue to research this matter, each site's news claims the same thing over and over. The reason tablet's are not being covered is simply because the definition isn't good enough for Librarian of Congress to allow it. In order for tablets to be considered the definition would (in my mind) have to be revised in order for it to be included in the exemptions.
Unlocking Will be 'No More'
The years 2006 and 2010 mark the years that users were 'permitted' to 'unlock' their devices and bring them to different carriers. However, this will no longer be the case. The rule for unlocking states that:
"..the phone must have been "originally acquired from the operator of a wireless telecommunications network or retailer no later than ninety days after the effective date of this exemption."
Well of course there would be a loophole! There's always a loophole or catch to everything. This is where the unlocking prior to January 2013 comes in. You have until then to have 'unlockable' devices. After January 2013 occurs, guess whose permission you will need? Yup, that's right, the carrier's permission. This has raised some confusion, questions, and concerns towards the Librarian, who in turn stated that there are several of 'unlocked' devices on the market now then there were if we went back 3 years.
Two key factors came into play here. Even though you may have purchased the device or 'software' "you don't actually own it." Now, please folks I"m not the one to flame, this comes from the Librarian of Congress and not myself or anyone affiliated with Android Headlines.
You know that lovely "End User License Agreement" you see in just about everything? You should because it's in almost every software download there is. You agreeing to that agreement only gives you rights to "license the software," not own it.
Now here's another one that will send you all in an up roar. Since so many carriers have their own policies in regards to unlocking devices, the Librarian of Congress felt that "it should no longer be legal to unlock your cell phone without the carrier's permission." I can hear the vulgar yelling now....
There are a few more that went out with these rules and exemptions, but they pertain to DVDs and not Android. So if you want to read more please feel free to visit the link below.
What do you think? Do you think we got some fair rules from the DMCA? Or do you think it's all complete crap and a waste of government funds? I, myself, tend to agree with the latter. I had some issues making sense of it all, but after some research and some re-reads it seemed pretty well laid out. Agreeing with it is the tricky part. Thoughts?