Back in 2010, the DMCA Digital Millennium Copyright Act ruled that jailbreaking is legal, and that jailbreakers could not be prosecuted for liberating their iDevice using redsn0w, or some other jailbreak tool. However, the DMCA’s list of exceptions, which included listing jailbreaking as a non-legal act, just expired. Fortunately, a refreshed list indicates that jailbreaking an iPhone is still legal, but oddly enough the DMCA hasn’t made a decision regarding Apple’s iPad (which we also love to install Cydia Store tweaks on).
As Ars Technica’s detailed article on the subject notes:
The new rules allow circumvention of “computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset.” In other words, jailbreaking is permitted for “telephone handsets,” as it was under the 2010 rules.
So no change there, then. But what about iPads? The report continues:
What about tablets? No dice. The Librarian “found significant merit to the opposition’s concerns that this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined, as a wide range of devices might be considered ‘tablets,’ notwithstanding the significant distinctions among them in terms of the way they operate, their intended purposes, and the nature of the applications they can accommodate. For example, an e-book reading device might be considered a ‘tablet,’ as might a handheld video game device or a laptop computer.”
The Librarian ruled that “the record lacked a sufficient basis to develop an appropriate definition for the ‘tablet’ category of devices, a necessary predicate to extending the exemption beyond smartphones.”
Jailbreakers, however, really shouldn’t worry about the above. Since it’s perfectly legal to jailbreak an iPhone under the DMCA’s listing, most expect that it would be near-impossible for a jailbreaker to be prosecuted for jailbreaking an iPad, be it full-size or mini. In addition to the above, the act of unlocking an iPhone was also removed from the list, but iPhone owners looking for a carrier unlock can more easily find one from the carrier itself, nowadays, anyway.
All in all, if you’re a jailbreaker, then proceed as normal: you have nothing to worry about. You can read through the entire DMCA document here.