So the Library of Congress has ruled that jailbreaking an iPhone amounts to fair use under DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) rules. They also ruled on a number of other DRM related issues involving DVDs and eBooks.
While everyone salivates around the iPhone part of the ruling, one specific needed detail was indeed missing from the list – circumventing eBook DRM to convert the text to a format for another device.
Here’s an example:
You own a DRM protected eBook that you bought for your Sony Reader. You later purchase a Kindle. Kindle cannot read the EPUB format that your book is in, but you want to read the ebook on your Kindle. Can you circumvent the DRM in order to convert the ebook to MOBI format? Most license agreements at present say “no.” Amazon’s agreement specifically states that all you own is the right to read the content on the Kindle. You don’t own the book itself.
This is quite unlike a hardback book where you own the physical copy of the book. You bought it and you can do what you want with it. You can give it away, you can sell it, you can even burn it. What you can’t do is photocopy it and redistribute the content.
Ebook licensing ideally should duplicate this model. But at minimum, it needs to allow for law-abiding citizens to be able to crack the DRM in order to read content we purchased on some other device.
A step up from this would include the ability to deal with content from the library. Here’s an example:
My library offers ebooks as PDF, EPUB, and MOBI. But sometimes there are books that are in only one format (let’s say EPUB). I want to read that on my Kindle, but I can’t without circumventing the DRM and converting it to MOBI format, which clearly violates the EULA. But I only want to read it on a different device. I’m not going to strip the DRM and host it on some bit-torrent site or otherwise redistribute it. I just want to read it on an incompatible device.
I am waiting for the Library of Congress to rule on these issues as well, but I won’t hold my breath. It seems that they are more concerned with the iPhone than they are with people who just want to read. In fact, when this story was announced, I could only find one article out of 478 on news.google.com that actually detailed the ebook component of the decision. The vast majority (read: all the others that I searched) only talked about the iPhone, even though ebook text-to-speech circumvention was also part of the decision.
When all e-books are blocked from screen readers or e-reader read aloud functions, and no digital edition is available with such accessibility features.
– from DMCA revised: unlocking, jailbreaking phones, e-book text-to-speech, deemed fair use
Here is the text of the statement: Statement of the Librarian of Congress Relating to Section 1201 Rulemaking