Why Hacking Into Smart TVs Is Actually Legal Now

Most of the time when you hear about hackers doing things, there are negative connotations aplenty, as it’s either leaked emails, leaked nude photos, security breaches or something equally infringing. But what about the good kind of hacking? Thankfully for those aiming to use workaround hacks to make their smart TVs more efficient, the government has declared it legal to do so. Assuming you aren’t doing any illegal things in the process of course.

The Library of Congress, with some nudging from the U.S. Copyright Office, has ruled that hacking smart TVs will fall under an exemption of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It appears that everyone involved viewed the potential advantages were higher than the negatives, and they weren’t as concerned that people would use this to do unlawful things with their televisions. I mean, I’m sure some people will definitely be doing that, but not so many that it’ll cause noticeable problems.

Here’s what part of the decision said, according to THR.

The Register also found that the prohibition on circumvention is adversely affecting legitimate noninfringing uses of smart TV firmware, and that the proposed alternatives to circumvention, such as connecting a laptop computer to the TV, are inadequate, because they would not allow installation of software on the smart TV to improve its functioning as a TV, such as facilitating more prominent subtitles. The Register also concluded that no evidence was submitted to illustrate opponents’ claim that jailbreaking of smart TVs will make it easier to gain unauthorized access to copyrighted content, or that it would otherwise undermine smart TVs as a platform for the consumption of expressive works.

That’s a mouthful. Some groups were worried that allowing the jailbreaking of TVs would mean a ton of people would install software to view pirated TV shows and movies, such as Popcorn Time. And you might remember when everyone was up in arms about Samsung’s TVs being taken over by hackers who would use them to spy on people and record their conversations. But allowing users to jailbreak their TVs means they’ll actually be able to make them safer by adding third-party security software that would stop people from spying through the TVs. So there.

The exemptions allowed by the Library of Congress also present some interesting opportunities for people other than those looking to make their smart TVs safer and more interesting. School teachers are now able to bypass access controls on DVDs to create clip montages, E-book authors can unlock Blu-rays to bring audiovisual aspects to film analysis, and documentary filmmakers can circumvent access controls to splice older works into newer ones. Proponents of the exemptions also wanted that last part to be available to fictional filmmakers, but that got shot down.

So now you won’t have to cancel that subtitle-adjusting party you had planned for this weekend. Life is great!

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.