One of the saddest things to come out of the Clinton administration, from my perspective, was the mass erosion of consumer rights known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Hailed as a victory by the entertainment industry upon its passage in 1998, it made it illegal to circumvent the digital rights management (DRM) schemes developed to protect the property of copyright holders. And, in the process, effectively proved that we, as users of media, don’t have any right whatsoever to use the data that makes up our films, music and games in any manner other than that deemed appropriate by the companies which own them.
This hasn’t changed. But in a rare show of compassion for those who are impacted in a negative manner by this legislation, the Library of Congress has now relaxed restrictions in some circumstances. The aspect of the ruling which was most surprising is making it legal for users to circumvent DRM on wireless communications devices to run third-party software, enabling functions not made available on the device as well as allow it to connect to networks the device was not intended by its manufacturer to access.
Was that too long for you? Let’s try this, then: The iPhone can now be jailbroken legally. Of course, everyone who was likely to have done this already has, so the effect should be negligible. And you’ll still be voiding the hell out of your warranty, as there’s no way in hell Apple’s ever going to budge on this aspect of their platform.
Also of note is an expansion of rights in regards to videogames proper. Hackers are now empowered to crack DRM for the purposes of addressing security flaws in game software, presumably to fix them. I suppose developers are going to be urged by their publishers to be extra careful about making sure their netcode is tight now, which can only be a good thing for us.