Rooting: Legal or Not?

Is Rooting Legal or Illegal?

Rooting seems to be a crime for most of the users since while rooting Android phones or jailbreaking iPhones clears away the restrictions of manufacturer or carrier. Rooting is considered to be a breach of the law in some countries.

Today we are going to discuss the laws of Canada, the European Union, and the US to find out whether rooting is really beyond the pale.

Note, we’re professional lawyers, and this isn’t a sort of professional advice. We’re just techies shooting for the law and what we can do with our devices and what we shouldn’t.

Rooting: Legal or Not?

Rooting: Legal or Not?

Some manufacturers allow official rooting of Android devices on the one hand. These are Nexus and Google that can be officially rooted with the permission of a manufacturer. Thus it’s not illegal.

But on the other hand, a vast majority of Android manufacturers don’t approve rooting at all. As a rule, these devices don’t have a possibility to root. Carriers and manufacturers just block it out. And in this case, it’s a sort of crime since you’re violating the restrictions of a carrier or a manufacturer.

When it comes to jailbreaking iPhone, it’s always beyond the law. Apple doesn’t approve of jailbreaking its devices to install any unauthorized apps.

Rooting in the US

According to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the alternation of digital management rights (acquiring admin rights, etc.) is considered a digital crime. Notwithstanding, every rule has an exception. In this context, rooting is allowed for some cases.

A few years ago, rooting a phone to use with another carrier was legal, but today it’s against the law. Nowadays you should get permission from your carrier prior to rooting it.

Notwithstanding, it’s completely legal to jailbreak or root a device if you use legal apps on it according to Statement of the Librarian of Congress. So if you are going to use the apps requiring root or the apps downloaded outside the official store, then rooting is warranted. But if you root your phone for any other reason, rooting violates the law.

And there is no exception when it comes to rooting or jailbreaking tablets. Rooting a tablet, any other handheld device, anything but a smartphone is considered a crime.

Rooting in Canada

It was not until 2012 when Canada passed out the Copyright Modernization Act that made digital locks beyond the law. So if you are going to root your device for additional software or use the apps outside the official app stores, you won’t become a criminal on the one hand.

But having dug deeply into the act, we have found out that rooting or jailbreaking your devices for any reason that isn’t stated in the act is a crime. And if you think that it’s your personal device and you can do with it whatever you want, you are getting it wrong. You aren’t allowed to violate any restrictions the manufacturer or carrier placed on your device.

Although importing or selling any utilities or tools that might be used for hacking is prohibited by law.

Rooting in the EU Countries

In the EU rooting or jailbreaking handheld devices falls under the Computer Programs Directive. According to the Directive, rooting equals to a violation of copyright. It’s similar to the laws of the US and Canada.

But rooting or jailbreaking is allowed when it comes to interoperability. In other words, you should be okay if you are going to root your device doe running other legal software compatible only with rooted devices.

The following exemption is broad and narrow at the same time. Unlike in the US where you aren’t allowed to root tablets, in the EU countries the law applies to any handheld device be it a smartphone or a tablet.

All in all, it appears that creating or distributing tools for jailbreaking or rooting is beyond the law but rooting itself isn’t a crime.

Instead of Conclusions

As we have found out, rooting and jailbreaking smartphones to use the software the manufacturer doesn’t approve has nothing to deal with crimes.

Yet there are some cases when rooting is prohibited by law as for unlocking the device, changing the carrier without the permission, jailbreaking tablets or anything else except software interoperability. And distribution or creation of any “hacking” devices is against the law in any of the countries mentioned above.

Rooting is allowed when it comes to interoperability and use of the additional root software. Have you got any questions regarding rooting, feel free to drop us a line.