Intellectual property, especially copyright and patents, is purely fictitious, a construction of the State. Stephan Kinsella has definitively proved such in his paper Against Intellectual Property.
Nevertheless, the US government continues to prop up this inefficient and unethical practice. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, many lives have been ruined by the bad side of corps, full of lawyers hunting for cash. We all know of the old ladies and teenagers who receive verdicts requiring them to pay obscene amounts of money for such non-crimes.
Well, some new rules coming straight from the Library of Congress are sure to help alleviate a few of these problems. Essentially, the Librarian of Congress must evaluate exemptions to the DMCA every 3 years, i.e. you cannot be prosecuted, period, if you do these things. Previously, there had only been one exemption recognized. Now, there are SIX exemptions, and the first three are quite significant.
The basics of each exemption:
1) You can rip your own DVDs. You can remix scenes for noncommercial use. So all those Hitler-plus-caption remixes from the movie Downfall no longer can be taken down. Teachers who want to use a movie in a class can rip it. No one from the DMCA can touch you.
2) You can jailbreak your phone, nobody can prosecute you. Big swipe at Apple/AT&T.
3) You can use software to unlock your phone for use on a different network.
4) You can use software to crack game SecuROMs or other game DRM for the purpose of “investigation” or research. The language is very broad, since even curiosity can prompt “investigation.”
5) You can use cracks to bypass a hardware dongle. This is significant for people like me who use lab equipment or any variety of peripherals with stupid dongles.
6) You can crack DRM encrypted ebooks to use text-to-speech capabilities. Convenient.
Gizmodo has a more thorough analysis here.
These new rules surely do not go far enough, but thankfully things are not becoming more restrictive in this arena. But we need to continue pushing back, so keep spreading the word!