One thing to keep in mind is that exclusive agreements with carriers like AT&T help subsidize the cost of the devices for consumers. If manufacturers like Apple are no longer able to negotiate these agreements and can only sell the hardware and software the cost of cutting-edge new devices will most certainly increase for consumers.
It appears that this ruling addresses a number of "dangling" rights issues created by content owners protecting or attempting to expand their rights without adequate observance of the rights they've licensed or granted to their customers. This goes back to recognizing that there are situations where technical violations by licensed users should be part of legitimate or fair use.
What I find most interesting here is the granting of permission to crack digital encryption, like CSS on a DVD, for what has traditionally been considered "fair use" under copyright law.
The way I read it, the copyright law has now been updated to permit fair use of portions of encrypted content, but the problem is that cracking that encryption still violates the DMCA.
Is the Librarian of Congress deliberately taking on the DMCA? If so, this could get very interesting!
Colin, It's not clear if this means Apple Inc and others are prohibited from locking their phones. I don't believe that's the case but some other people are reading it this way. In this ruling, the Librarian of Congress explained that the copyright act "does not forbid the act of circumventing copy controls."
He did not state explicitly that manufacturers cannot continue to block access to the use of their equipment. It all depends now on how manufacturers and consumers define the ruling and how the courts further interpret it. Apple and others may also challenge the revised ruling in court so this has yet to fully play out.
Apple and other companies affected by this may decide not to fight this so as not to further antagonize customers but they may also see this as a major violation of their rights and sue. The only victory hackers can claim right now is they will not be prosecuted.
Does this mean that Apple and other phone makers will be prohibited from locking their phones in the future, or just that you cannot be prosecuted for jailbreaking them? The ruling gives an exemption to copyright laws "prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work,” which sounds like they can still lock their phones, but just can't gripe about hackers jailbreaking them. I hope I am reading it wrong, though, and this ruling means that Apple and other phone makers will be prohibited from locking their phones in the future. What do you think? Will this ruling mean Apple stops locking their phones?