Free at last, free at last -- thank the law, we're free at last.
That, at least, is the refrain coming from iPhone jailbreakers and YouTube mashup artists, who are singing the praises of the Electronic Frontier Foundation after it helped make these activities exempt from prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Can't wait for the new jailbreak apps? Find out what you can download now in "21 apps Apple doesn't want on your 3.0 iPhone" | Stay up to date on all Robert X. Cringely's observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]
The EFF succeeded in persuading the Copyright Office and the Congressional Librarian to allow people to modify their iPhones, even if that means doing things Apple doesn't want them to do -- like unlocking them from AT&T and/or running any apps they want, including those that don't carry the Steve Jobs Seal of Approval.
The EFF also won an exception for YouTube video remixes. You may now legally rip portions of a DVD and upload them to the viral video site, provided you do something that changes them in a substantive way -- adding opera vocals to a video of singing cats, for example. And you can break the DRM on an e-book in order to turn it into an audiobook using text-to-speech conversion software (but only if no other commercial audio versions are available).
The DMCA comes up for review every three years, and this time around, the EFF convinced DMCA reviewers to make what is possibly the worst piece of federal legislation targeting technology ever written slightly less onerous by giving people a tad more control over stuff they've legally paid for.
It's not exactly a radical concept, unless you're a Hollywood studio or a megalomaniacal turtleneck-wearing control freak. In other words, if the DMCA ruled grocery stores, you'd be be able to buy bread, but you wouldn't be allowed to toast it. Or you could make toast, but you'd only be allowed to butter it using dairy products officially approved by the bread manufacturer.
Now, thanks to the EFF, you can slather on all the butter that bread can hold -- on both sides, even -- and eat it however you want.
What's likely to happen after this ruling? Well, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict a large infusion of porn apps for the iPhone (why should Android users have all the fun?), as well as other apps Apple doesn't like. Google Voice, anyone? Also, look out for a healthy portion of iPhone malware pretending to be porn and banned apps.