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'Jailbreaking' the iPhone

Changes in federal copyright laws will allow users of Apple’s iPhone and other smart phones to lawfully download applications that aren’t approved by the phone maker or carrier, according to the Library of Congress.

The practice, known as “jailbreaking” has been criticized by Apple and other firms, who say their mobile devices can become destabilized when users download unapproved software applications. Apple would not comment on whether it would sue the Library of Congress’s copyright office for the changes made to the Digital Millennial Copyright Act announced Monday.

Those changes also allow a user to take their mobile phone from one carrier to another with the approval of their new service provider.

In a statement, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said it reevaluates copyright laws every three years to ensure federal laws are keeping up with the way consumers use technology.

“The purpose of the proceeding is to determine whether current technologies that control access to copyrighted works are diminishing the ability of individuals to use works in lawful, non-infringing ways,” Billington said.

Apple argues that their approval process for applications that run on the iPhone has resulted in a better quality experience for phone users.

“We know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience,” the company said in a statement. “As we've said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably.”

Some critics, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say users of Apple’s popular smartphone want to be able to switch carriers or obtain applications that aren’t in Apple’s iTunes applications store. EFF filed a request to the Library of Congress for some of the changes. Among other changes made by the copyright office of the Library of Congress, mobile phone users will be able to bring their devices to other networks that permits the switch. The organization argued that the closed iTunes model didn’t protect copyrights but restricted consumer choice.

"The Copyright Office recognizes that the primary purpose of the locks on cell phones is to bind customers to their existing networks, rather than to protect copyrights," said Jennifer Granick, EFF's Civil Liberties Director. "The Copyright Office agrees with EFF that the DMCA shouldn't be used as a barrier to prevent people who purchase phones from keeping those phones when they change carriers. The DMCA also shouldn't be used to interfere with recyclers who want to extend the useful life of a handset."

The Library of Congress also said schools and universities and documentary films will be able to use clips from DVDs for educational purposes.

By Cecilia Kang  |  July 26, 2010; 2:44 PM ET
Categories:  AT&T , Apple , Broadband , Consumers , Mobile , Net Neutrality , Sprint Nextel , T-Mobile , Verizon  
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Comments

"The organization argued that the closed iTunes model didn’t protect copyrights but restricted consumer choice."

Duh. You can remove copyright protections from content purchased from iTunes. Removing copyright protections is the only way you can play the music you purchased on other devices like a 3rd party MP3 player or burn it to a CD to play on your car stereo and the like. Why shouldn't you be able to play the music on these other devices, you payed so that you could listen to the songs any place and any time you want, right? That's how CDs, tape cassettes, vinyl records, etc, all worked.

Right now, if I want to purchase music from iTunes, I can't play it on my car stereo or buy a cheap MP3 player and use that. I have to use devices blessed by Apple. Kind of like how if you want to use the AT&T telephone line you paid for, you had to buy an AT&T telephone to go with it; they claimed using 3rd party telephones would hamper the user experience and degrade the telephone network, sound familiar? Quality control was not a legitimate excuse for AT&T attempting to abuse their large market share in telephone services to monopolize the telephone hardware market, why should it be a legitimate excuse for Apple to do the same?

If jailbreaking an iPhone will degrade a user's experience, let them decide that for themselves. Apple doesn't have to support jailbroken iPhones. If the jailbreak does cause undesirable results, or the user has hardware issues, then they can simply restore their iPhone to factory default. If you restore your phone and the problem does not go away, then the jailbreak did not cause the problem and Apple should support it.

In my opinion, any slowdown in speed or increase in instability was well worth the additional functionality I received by jailbreaking.

Thank you Congress. Boo to you, Apple and AT&T.

Posted by: paulflorez | July 26, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Awesome!!!
Now if we could also have both choices of Pepsi and Coke in the same restaurant this would be a perfect world.

Posted by: mexfogel | July 26, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Everything I've read on this today focuses on the jailbreak issue. However a potentially larger issue for most non-geeks is the potential for easier portability of handsets among carriers.

Does this ruling mean I can buy a Verizon (or another CDMA) prepaid phone and activate it on my Verizon contract account? Currently I have to wait six months to do so, or else fork over $200 for a basic phone (to replace the flaky phone I'm now using). I know there are used phones on eBay but talk about a crap shoot.

Do hope some of our media experts offer their opinions on this portion of the LoC ruling.

Posted by: CallMeLiberal | July 26, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

@paulflorez: "Right now, if I want to purchase music from iTunes, I can't play it on my car stereo or buy a cheap MP3 player and use that. I have to use devices blessed by Apple. "

TOTALLY WRONG...the itunes music offerings have been TOTALLY DRM FREE for well over a year now. repeat....ITUNES MUSIC HAS NO DRM RESTRICTIONS...you can export it to what whatever device you want.
----------
secondly, if Apple/iphone wasn't in the headline this article wouldn't even be written. Replace words "iphone" with your car or washing machine. If you hacked your washing machine and made it play music while it washed clothes...is it illegal to do that? the government has now said it is not...no one ever ruled that it was, btw. Under the warranty period, if you bring it in all f'ed up, does the washing machine company have to fix it? No, they do not. They will hit the "restore to factory state" button (which the iphone has, btw) and if it works, they will tell you "it works, have a nice day!". That is exactly what this means. No more, no less. If your mods break it, you own it.

Posted by: caddisfly | July 27, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

This is a major step in unraveling the vast telecom conspiracy to make everyone buy overpriced celtower data. There is no reason at all we should have to buy handsets from telecom carriers. They don't manufacture the handsets. Paulflorez is exactly right: celtower access should be subject to the same anti-monopoly provision as landlines. The 1974 Carterphone decision, requiring the landline telecom carrier monopoly AT&T to accomodate "any lawful device" on their system, should be applied to celtower telecom carriers as well. This, combined with an open-access rule for celtowers, would enable users to buy any phone and use it on any network. The celtower open-access rule would allow any network to use any celtower, drastically reducing network costs. Yes the telecom oligopoly companies would suffer reduced profits, but their profits today are grossly inflated due to their anti-competitive restrictions on hardware, software and portability between networks. They cripple each handset's capabilities to force users into the overprice celtower data plans, regardless how little celtower data the user wants.

Posted by: Religulous | July 27, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

THANK GOD!
Finally, someone steps on Apple's toes for a good purpose.

Posted by: Raxion | July 27, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Apple - as contrasted with Microsoft - has established a reputation as a provider of elegant reliability.
Microsoft has borne the burden of a vast monoculture subject to worldwide hacking, which has challenged its security.
I would expect that the copyright 'liberalisation' noted might degrade both security and reliability of Apple's (Iphone )system.

Posted by: tbhpmci | July 27, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I don't recall ever hearing about Apple suing anyone for jailbreaking their phone. Its not their style.

You have always been able to jailbreak an iPhone. Just don't expect Apple to support your phone if it doesn't work right. And if they pump out a new software update that you want, you usually have to reset the phone back to the factory default, run the update, then re-jailbreak and reload your apps.

This ruling doesn't change anything.

Posted by: will4567 | July 27, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Finally some sanity from a government administrator! And here I thought they were all in it for the money, and in the pocket of their respective special interest masters, not fundamental fairness and the American people. Oh jaded me.

Guess we finally caught up with the Australians on this one. And exactly how is an unlocked phone in Australia performing in comparison to a locked one here in America? Well it looks like the copyright office looked right through apples bs. Good for them and three cheers for James H. Billington and Jennifer Granick.

Posted by: Homunculus | July 27, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Right now, if I want to purchase music from iTunes, I can't play it on my car stereo or buy a cheap MP3 player and use that. I have to use devices blessed by Apple. Kind of like how if you want to use the AT&T telephone line you paid for, you had to buy an AT&T telephone to go with it; they claimed using 3rd party telephones would hamper the user experience and degrade the telephone network, sound familiar? Quality control was not a legitimate excuse for AT&T attempting to abuse their large market share in telephone services to monopolize the telephone hardware market, why should it be a legitimate excuse for Apple to do the same?

If jailbreaking an iPhone will degrade a user's experience, let them decide that for themselves. Apple doesn't have to support jailbroken iPhones. If the jailbreak does cause undesirable results, or the user has hardware issues, then they can simply restore their iPhone to factory default. If you restore your phone and the problem does not go away, then the jailbreak did not cause the problem and Apple should support it.

In my opinion, any slowdown in speed or increase in instability was well worth the additional functionality I received by jailbreaking.

Thank you Congress. Boo to you, Apple and AT&T.

Posted by: paulflorez | July 26, 2010 4:13 PM |
================================
What a load of crap. You can burn a CD from itunes and play it on any other device. Read the direction.

Posted by: jjgrah | July 27, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

jjgrah is right. And you could always burn a CD from iTunes, even when they had DRM. And you could burn it as a music CD, which would play in your car stereo's CD player or any other cheapo CD player you wanted to use.

Posted by: chevychase10 | July 27, 2010 3:06 PM | Report abuse

You could jailbreak brfore, but now I suppose Apple won't be able to use their remote kill switch to brick your phone...

Posted by: ozpunk | July 27, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

if i were apple i would sue the crap out of congress

Posted by: BMACattack | July 27, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

You could jailbreak brfore, but now I suppose Apple won't be able to use their remote kill switch to brick your phone...

Posted by: ozpunk | July 27, 2010 3:12 PM
=================================
ATT or Apple can brick your phone at any time.
Read the terms of service.

Posted by: jjgrah | July 27, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

In the long term, this may be a blessing in "de skies" for Apple. Google's Droid and others are using open source coding for their products. Eventually, most everything device out there will be using open source. The sooner Apple does, the more viable the company will be in the future.

Posted by: Keenobserver | July 27, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

THIS IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST STEP TOWARD HELPING THE CONSUMER IN 50 YEARS. HOOORAY FOR THE The Copyright Office, THEY SHOULD BE APPLAUDED.

Posted by: submarinerssn774 | July 27, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

It is always fun to read how US gov needs to changes diapers for it,s citizens. If you don't like it don't buy it, no one is pushing you. Get your money back and get Droid.

Posted by: mmilen | July 27, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

"ATT or Apple can brick your phone at any time.
Read the terms of service."

Actually they can only brick it for the reasons set out in the TOS. If the TOS allows ATT or Apple to do so for any reason, or no reason at all, then Iphone worshipers really are sheeple.

Posted by: blackbear336 | July 28, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

@paulflorez

Sorry dude but you are wrong. Save all your files as MP3s in iTUNES and you can move them anywhere. You also don't have to buy songs from iTunes. You can buy them from Amazon and import into iTunes.

Posted by: SSFromNO | July 28, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Oh poor Apple. Lying to their customers. It's like Microsoft saying you can only use MS products. Apple really should be taken out and shot. I cannot wait for their anti trust law suite to begin….. Break them up….

Posted by: askgees | July 28, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

In the long term, this may be a blessing in "de skies" for Apple. Google's Droid and others are using open source coding for their products. Eventually, most everything device out there will be using open source. The sooner Apple does, the more viable the company will be in the future.
Posted by: Keenobserver | July 27, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse
Apple by choice be it their computers, iPods or iPhones have ALWAYS chosen not to play nice with other technologies. This is why Apple is nothing more than a second rate wanna be IT company. They will never learn nor will they change. After being threatened with a law suite in France Apple decided not to sell it’s product in France. You can’t fix stup1d and Jobs epitomizes stup1dity. Anyone who owns an Apple is a fool. It’s the same as purchasing a horse and buggy VS an automobile….

Posted by: askgees | July 28, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

hhooolllddd on!!!!!!!!
Did this article say u can use any phone on any company?!? like a pre paid i phone perhaps?!?

Posted by: kojac3333 | July 28, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

What is this? The Library of Congress is now deciding what is and isn't legal? That's nothing but screwed up!

The real story here is that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act -- the law which granted the Librarian the authority to make such "rulings" -- was bought and paid for by the big-media lobbyists to take away the digital rights of Americans. If, under the law, the Librarian can occasionally give us a few of our rights back, that's still no occasion to rejoice.

Posted by: kcx7 | July 28, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

This is very good news, and far overdue. The rules up until now have had nothing to do with copyright protection and everything to do with locking the customer into a fixed carrier. Claims by the manufacturers about phones going "unstable" if "tampered with" are pure hype. These units are based on just another minicomputer. The op system can be either modified, or completely changed, just as with any other computer.

Posted by: Catch1 | July 29, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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