Government officials are once again debating over the legality of jailbreaking video game consoles in order to run homebrewed software.
There are various sides to this argument, with iFixit mentioning in a brief created to support the legalization of jailbreaking consoles that the act of jailbreaking a console is similar to “jailbreaking a phone,” which is legal. He mentions that consoles are not only created as gaming platforms, and can be used for other forms of media.
Just as jailbreaking a phone—a practice that the Copyright Office recognizes as valid—extends the device’s functionality, jailbreaking a console opens up a whole new world of possibilities to owners.
Consoles don’t just have to be a gaming platform. They house within them a powerful computer, which can be easily and cheaply repurposed as a home media device or a general computing device. But repurposing the console requires jailbreaking the system.
On the flip side, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have banded together to oppose legalizing this. They argue that most people who jailbreak their consoles are not doing it to simply repurpose their system, but instead to illegally download games for free.
There is abundant evidence that the primary reason many users seek to hack video game consoles is not to create new and different works, but to avoid paying the customary cost of existing works or devices—which courts have recognized as a commercial use.
The groups plan to battle it out in front of the Copyright Office in the coming months. What are your thoughts on making it legal to jailbreak game consoles?