In 2010, smartphone users won the right to jailbreak their phones in order to install new software or apps. Now that right is being extended to tablets and smart TVs.
The move was announced by the Library of Congress, which this week issued its triennial recommendations about digital copyright issues. Every three years, the Library of Congress grant exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention provisions, which prohibit people from bypassing digital software locks.
The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation was among the organizations pressing the government to OK jailbreaking of tablets. The group argued that users have "many excellent reasons" for wanting to tinker with their devices' built-in software, including to protect privacy.
"The restrictions built into Android block many software programs that function as a firewall to prevent leakage of personal information by other applications, and many forms of virtual private network ... software that encrypt data in transit," the EFF wrote in its petition.
"Android owners are also prevented from removing unwanted software installed by the manufacturer -- often software that consumes energy, shortens the device’s battery life, or sends personal information to advertisers."
The EFF added that Apple's iTunes Store rejects applications that are "objectionable or crude,” as well as programs with content that meets with Apple's disapproval.
Another organization, the Software Freedom Conservancy, sought an exemption for jailbreaking smart TVs. The group pointed out that smart TVs currently have built-in restrictions that prevent people from accessing media they have purchased from other sources, connecting TVs to other devices and running applications.
"Restrictions on Smart TV firmwares also pose a security risk for TV owners," the organization added. "For example, security researchers recently demonstrated a number of vulnerabilities in Samsung Smart TVs that could enable malicious hackers to access or damage a user’s device remotely. In some cases, these issues could be fixed or mitigated by the user, by installing a firewall or other countermeasures."
The Entertainment Software Association, Motion Picture Association of America and Recording Industry Association of America opposed the exemption, arguing that allowing people to jailbreak smart TVs would threaten copyright by enabling people to install apps that are "designed to locate pirated content."
The Library of Congress rejected that argument, stating that the MPAA and other opponents hadn't presented any evidence to support their contentions that jailbreaking would result in an increase in piracy.