U.S. government says you won’t get locked up for jailbreaking

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Hacking your Apple TV may no longer land you in the cooler.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Great news for people who are looking forward to jailbreaking that Apple TV that’s on its way to you this week: The Library of Congress has amended the law to render after-market firmware modification completely legal in the United States.

Small questions like legality haven’t stopped people from opening up their gadgets before, but they’ll be happy to know that it’s totally above-board now.

The ruling (via RedmondPie) opens up mods across several types of hardware, including smartphones, tablets, and TVs.

Jailbreaking involves getting around a manufacturer’s software restrictions to install apps and functionality that companies like Apple may not intend for use on their devices. In minor cases, this could involve changing the default system font on one’s iPhone from the standard, locked-in San Francisco type that Apple has rolled out over the past year. But it could also mean just insane numbers of porn channels and apps for Apple TV or modifications that let owners repurpose their gadgets for uses outside those intended.

If you have a few hours and are partially fluent in legalese, you can check out the full, 81-page filing online. It covers the relevant history and the hows and whys of the Library of Congress’ decision to update the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and I hear that if you make it through the whole thing without dozing off, you get a cookie.

But the main thing is that this decision reinforces the concept that you own your devices and are free to do whatever you please with them (inside the law, obviously). That doesn’t mean that jailbreaking your iPhone won’t absolutely void your warranty, however; that bit is still completely up to Apple.

Previous punishments for violating the DMCA included up to $1 million fines and/or 10 years in prison for repeat offenses “for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain.”

And of course, you’re opening yourself up to the risk of malware, bricking your iPhone, or just completely opening the floodgates to a bunch of crappy apps that never would have survived the App Store’s screening process. But other than that, let the weirdness begin.