Proposed DMCA Exemption Would Unchain Device Owners

SFLC Asks Copyright Office to Let Users Choose Their Software

December 2, 2011

The Software Freedom Law Center submitted comments yesterday to the U.S. Copyright Office proposing an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s anti-circumvention provisions. If granted, the exemption would ensure that owners of personal computing devices have the right to install whatever software they choose on their devices.

SFLC’s request responds to a growing trend among mobile device manufacturers to lock users out of their own devices by controlling application distribution channels and preventing replacement of devices’ operating systems. In its comments, SFLC says these practices were first broadly seen on mobile phones but are now commonplace on tablets and other mobile devices, and may soon extend to personal computers via PC “app stores” and the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) specification’s “secure boot” provision.

“People must have the right to control the software running on devices they own,” said SFLC counsel Aaron Williamson. “That right is essential to the continued development of free and open source software and is foundational to our privacy, security, and freedom, online and off.”

The requested exemption would expand on similar protections, requested by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2009, that apply only to mobile phones. It would not only broaden those protections to reach all personal computing devices but would clarify that users can replace their devices’ operating systems as well as install their choice of applications.

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