The question is not whether it's legal to unlock the iPhone ...

... the real question is whether Apple is allowed to brick an unlocked iPhone.

... the real question is whether Apple is allowed to brick an unlocked iPhone.

The question is not whether it's legal to unlock the iPhone ...
My posts on the possibility that Apple will brick unlocked iPhones have generated a lot of feedback.  Many of you are wondering whether it's legal to unlock an iPhone.  The fact is that, within the US, it is legal to unlock a phone, and it's enshrined in law:

Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works

The Librarian of Congress, on the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights, has announced the classes of works subject to the exemption from the prohibition against circumvention of technological measures that control access to copyrighted works. Persons making noninfringing uses of the following six classes of works will not be subject to the prohibition against circumventing access controls (17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)) during the next three years.

...

5. Computer programs in the form of firmware that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.

The question is not whether it's legal to unlock the iPhone, the real question is whether Apple is allowed to brick an unlocked iPhone.  That's the interesting question, and since I'm not a lawyer I don't pretend to have the answer, but here are some thoughts:

  • Apple's given prior notice that a future update "will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable"
  • Users will consent to the installation being carried out
  • Most updates are preceded by a license agreement which says that if things go wrong, well, tough
  • The warranty doesn't cover making any unauthorized changes to the device
  • Apple is under no obligation to make sure that you tweaking remains compatible with updates

On a related note, the iPhone Dev Team is promising a patch to restore unlocked iPhones back to factory fresh condition.

So, where does this leave users of unlocked iPhones and Apple?  My guess is that if iPhones start getting bricked, there's going to be trouble.

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