EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

Summary: The Electronic Frontier Foundation won some key protections for folks that jailbreak Apple's iPhones to run apps that aren't approved by Steve Jobs & Co. For most of us, this milestone is a non-event.

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation won some key protections for folks that jailbreak Apple's iPhones---and presumably other devices---to run apps that aren't approved by Steve Jobs & Co.

In a statement, the EFF said it won three exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) surrounding remixed videos and people that modify cell phones. Until the EFF victory, these people could have been sued.

Let's focus on the jailbreakers and cell phone unlockers. The EFF said:

The first of EFF's three successful requests clarifies the legality of cell phone "jailbreaking" — software modifications that liberate iPhones and other handsets to run applications from sources other than those approved by the phone maker. More than a million iPhone owners are said to have "jailbroken" their handsets in order to change wireless providers or use applications obtained from sources other than Apple's own iTunes "App Store," and many more have expressed a desire to do so. But the threat of DMCA liability had previously endangered these customers and alternate applications stores.

In its reasoning in favor of EFF's jailbreaking exemption, the Copyright Office rejected Apple's claim that copyright law prevents people from installing unapproved programs on iPhones: "When one jailbreaks a smartphone in order to make the operating system on that phone interoperable with an independently created application that has not been approved by the maker of the smartphone or the maker of its operating system, the modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses."

Now this ruling will matter a lot to someone that could have found themselves eyed by Apple. But what about the rest of us?

For the average bear, this EFF win is a non-event. Most of us aren't going to unlock phones or install software that may be a risk to the device. Life’s just too short to fiddle with your device software. Meanwhile, it's not clear Apple would go nuts suing everyone like the RIAA. However, Apple doesn't have to support your jailbroken phone. That's a large enough deterrent for most folks.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones, Telcos

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19 comments
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  • The little app to jailbreak my ATT Black Jack ....

    to unlock the GPS function and run Google Maps was worth its weight in ..... Well, it'v very handy!
    kd5auq
  • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

    Does this mean you can sue Phone OEM's or Service Providers if you can prove they purposely bricked your jail broken Phone with their updates?
    AboveAverageJoe
    • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

      @AboveAverageJoe Nope - All that ruling means is that Apple cannot go after anyone who jailbreaks the iPhone. They still have the right not to support it.
      athynz
      • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

        @athynz Where it'll get interesting is not when Apple doesn't support it, it's when Apple actively sabotages it as they have done in the past.
        rtk
      • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

        @athynz I guess I was not clear in my previous post. If a Phone OEM (Not Just Apple) or Service provider Does not block you (IE: Not Supporting) from updating a jail-broken phone and the update unnecessarily and purposely bricks your jail-broken phone would you have legal recourse?
        It is one thing to not support a jail-broken phone by either not allowing it to get updates or not giving support for any update problems but to add code to the update to brick jail-broken phones does not, IMHO fall under "Not Supporting"!
        AboveAverageJoe
      • I sincerely doubt it...

        @AboveAverageJoe... let's say for visibility sake, Apple sends out an update, which was crafted to render the phone useless for those who jail brake their phones, then yes they could be sued, however, they would not do this.

        As Apple points out, if you have jailbroken your phone, and you update through iTunes to the new verson, let's say from 3.1.3 to 4.0.1, then it will wipe out the device, and any 3rd party store apps. Is your phone un-usable? No, just returned to the state at which it was when you purchased it from Apple or ATT.

        Keep in mind this does not prevent remote kill bits which software writers and resellers can have injected into the code for DCMA purposes, see the E-book Kindle debacle, in which apps, music, and videos can be remotely wiped from the machine.

        So basically, if you JB your iphone, and you download an unsupported app that makes the phone un-usable, then you have bought yourself a brick, will Apple brick the phone, not likely.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

        @AboveAverageJoe Okay I'm with you now - I'd say there should be legal recourse if Apple intentionally bricks a device via software update because the device is jailbroken...

        @rtk - I'm not sure what you mean by Apple actively sabotaging a jailbreak... I've jailbroken mine several times throughout the iOS update cycles - unless that is what you are referring to. AFAIK he Apple iOS updates completely overwrites the existing version of the OS and resyncs the device to add the settings and app data - so the jailbreak is gone until the owner of the device jailbreaks it again. It's gotten pretty painless and easy to jailbreak though.
        athynz
    • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

      @AboveAverageJoe

      I think a better question is if jb voids a warranty with this ruling....
      rhonin
      • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

        @zenwalker Yes absolutely it does void the warranty. The only thing the ruling changes is now it isn't illegal for you to jailbreak your phone. If you develop any problems after doing so, then Apple doesn't have to support you--as well they shouldn't.
        lelandhendrix
  • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

    It matters alot to me! Now I can purchase an iPhone and maintain my contract with Verizon instead of the dreaded AT&T. Bravo!
    markomd
    • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

      @markomd Not unless they change the technology - the tech in the iPhone is incompatible with VZW's
      athynz
    • No, you can't.

      @markomd Verizon and At&t's networks aren't compatible. Sorry, dude.
      erikswanson
    • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

      @markomd
      Why bother...Apple will be on Verizon network early next year.JBing is really great if you are a networking gadget person and or a developer. I jailbroke my phone to use certain apps, but put it back when ios4.0 came out. I found that I really didnt use the JB options as much as I would.
      az49erfn
  • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

    [b]For the average bear, this EFF win is a non-event. [/b]

    Perhaps - but then again I'm thinking that the last couple of major changes to the iOS (Copy/Paste, folders, putting wallpaper on the background, video recording) would not have taken place had the jailbreaking community not proven that these things could indeed run on the device and that people would go through the risk of hacking the device to get them.[b]

    Most of us aren?t going to unlock phones or install software that may be a risk to the device. Life?s just too short to fiddle with your device software.[/b]

    Life's too short to have to deal with the lack of certain features on an otherwise excellent device. And really the risk to the device is negligible because one can always go back to a stock OS just by a restore or waiting for the next Apple iOS update.[b]

    Meanwhile, it?s not clear Apple would go nuts suing everyone like the RIAA. However, Apple doesn?t have to support your jailbroken phone. That?s a large enough deterrent for most folks.[/b]

    Indeed, Apple does NOT have to support a jailbroken iPhone - which has been my retort to those who were saying that people messed up their iPhones by trying and failing to jailbreak and then taking the bricked device to Apple for a refund...
    athynz
    • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

      @athynz
      Really, it actually would be dumb for apple to brick your phone anyways for the reasons you mentioned above but especially because of the "forced" advancement that APple had to make due to the JB community. If Apple (Jobs) was smart they would embrace that community and allow them to test out new advancements on the device..a live test area, without the liability to support them...what more could you ask for..and maybe just maybe this community would come up with more good ideas for your device to stay ahead of competition!
      az49erfn
      • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

        @az49erfn [b]If Apple (Jobs) was smart they would embrace that community and allow them to test out new advancements on the device..a live test area, without the liability to support them...[/b]

        I definitely agree with that - the problem is that Job's is a major control freak... otherwise there would not have been any attempts to make jailbreaking illegal.
        athynz
  • It may matter a great deal

    not so much for the immediate impact, but for the fact that organizations can pursue this line of activity. You may say that DVD encryption is not effective because its so easy for those that care to do so, but the fact that the DMCA outlaws it means that the major media players don't support it, in effect, this has meant that unlike mp3s, DVD ripping is relegated to a small segment of the population and that in turn means that the market for many innovative types of devices is small (because average users don't have ripped movies). Things like this have a big ripple effect that may not be obvious now, but can have a large impact over time. The history of technology is one of seemingly small rulings having a huge impact (see carterphone for one of many examples)
    JoeBorn
  • RE: EFF 'liberates' iPhone jailbreakers: Does it matter?

    Maybe now is the time for the hackintosh people to sing along, and try to push Apple deeper in this kind of monopoly...
    (although I understand that "hackintoshes" shoud be only legally available to people that purchased a Mac OSX disc)
    rpgabriel
  • Geat News

    This is awesome news!

    Apples over censorship (now also in the bookstore) will create another setback that I?m sure the company could have done with not coming to light at the moment in time ,it will be interesting to see what's next in the news regarding iPhone/Apple issues (antenna, manufacturing, roaming service charges) and their steps to refund cases won?t make up for the iPhone 4's lack of function over form.

    It's a shame to see so many issues with the iPhone 4 after so many people waited for it's release. What's more of a shame is that it seems Apple knew about some of these issues already, such as the problem with reception.

    But Apple have created such a loyal following that people may just put up with what issues there are for the sake of owning the latest Apple product.
    Personally, I'd be happier with an older iPhone - at least then the issues are all ironed out.

    However, it's also interesting to see how much excitement new technologies can bring. New technology and innovation is important for new business, illustrated by entrepreneurship grants and new business competitions like www.ukesnc.com.

    Guess it's not all bad!
    galile0