Whether or not jailbreaking or rooting one’s smartphone is a legal act isn’t something most of us in the U.S. have had to think about for some time. That’s because, in 2010, the U.S. Copyright Office declared that jailbreaking devices is not a violation of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Fine, said Apple, but it will still void your warranty and we bet it will screw up your phone.

Despite the company’s official disapproval, jailbreaking iOS is still big among a certain subset of users, as evidenced by the popularity of the A5 Absinthe tool that was released last Friday. But should people in the jailbreak community continue to rest easy, assured that freeing their devices will forever remain legal? Probably not.

That’s because the notion that jailbreaking is legally acceptable wasn’t established by, say, a Supreme Court ruling and all of the weight of legal authority that that would entail. Instead, it was a directive from the U.S. Copyright Office. So the thing can expire. That could happen soon, warns the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The only way to ensure that this doesn’t happen, says the EFF, is for everyone to let the Copyright Office know that they would prefer to see jailbreaking remain legal, and why. There’s a comment form that lets them do that.

In addition to smartphones, the EFF wants the Copyright Office to add exemptions for tablets and video game consoles as well. Two years ago, the tablet market simply wasn’t what it is today, let alone the jailbreak community around it.

Video game consoles have been hacked and modded for years, but more recent tinkering with Microsoft’s Kinect in particular has brought the true potential of the technology to the forefront. Even though Microsoft itself has embraced Kinect-hacking, the EFF doesn’t want to let this kind of user-modification of game consoles slip through the legal cracks.

john paul titlow