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New DMCA rules mean you can fiddle with your tablets, routers, cars (as if you weren't anyway)

Librarian legalizes more tinkering in triennial

The Librarian of Congress in America has updated the list of technologies that hackers can tinker with without breaking the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Under the terms of the DMCA, the Librarian must revise the list of devices and technologies that can be investigated and altered by people using them. In the past this has led to a ban on a ban on smartphone unlocking (now rescinded) and other idiocies.

The latest list [PDF], however, shows welcome signs of sanity. Tablets are now on the list of devices that can be legally examined and customized by their owners, and smart watches, and televisions. Wi-Fi routers have also been added to the list, allowing security researchers to check for hidden flaws and backdoors.

Let's be honest: researchers were already doing this, but now it's officially totally OK with Uncle Sam.

Gamers will be pleased with the ruling, since they can now modify legally bought games to make sure they are still playable after the manufacturer has shut down the servers providing authentication. Unfortunately, massively multiplayer online games are exempt from this decision.

Car control systems are also now fair game, the Librarian has ruled, although not until next year. The EFF had requested this, although motor manufacturers lobbied hard against including it, but the recent spate of car hacking cases and the ongoing VW scandal appear to have swung the argument.

The EFF also petitioned the Librarian to include Blu-Ray encryption on the list of hackable products, arguing that it was needed for educators making teaching material and for making private remixes of films.

"It's absurd that we have to spend so much time, every three years, filing and defending these petitions to the copyright office," said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry.

"Technologists, artists, and fans should not have to get permission from the government – and rely on the contradictory and often nonsensical rulings – before investigating whether their car is lying to them or using their phone however they want. But despite this ridiculous system, we are glad for our victories here, and that basic rights to modify, research, and tinker have been protected." ®

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