Just over two years ago, the US Copyright Office rejected a proposed effort to make it legal to jailbreak video game consoles to run legally obtained homebrew software. Today, hacking proponents and industry members are once again fighting over the same proposed exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as part of the copyright office’s regular review of “Section 1201 exemptions.”
Proponents of the exemption argue that console owners should be able to have more control over what software they can run on hardware they legally own. “Just as jailbreaking a phone—a practice that the Copyright Office recognizes as valid—extends the device’s functionality, jailbreaking a console opens up a whole new world of possibilities to owners,” iFixit writes in a brief supporting the effort to make console jailbreaking legal. “Consoles don’t just have to be a gaming platform. They house within them a powerful computer, which can be easily and cheaply repurposed as a home media device or a general computing device. But repurposing the console requires jailbreaking the system.”
iFixit cites a few examples of legitimate uses for jailbroken consoles, from educators using consoles as cheap, TV-based PCs in classrooms to Air Force researchers using 1,700 daisy-chained PS3s as a cheap supercomputer. An exemption could also allow for more basic personal uses, such as converting an Xbox to a home media center well after its usefulness as a game machine is done.
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