Apple moves to ban jailbreaking

February 17, 2009 // 10:03 a.m.

Tags: #apple #copyright-office #digital-millennium-copyright-act #dmca #illegal #iphone #ipod-touch #jailbreak #jailbreaking #us

Jailbreaking might be the best thing you could do to your newly-purchased iPhone, but there are people out there who don't want you running unauthorised code on your device – and Apple is one of them.

According to an article over on ExtremeTech, Apple is making moves towards having the process of jailbreaking an iPhone – modification of its operating system so as to allow third-party unapproved applications to be installed and executed without prior approval from the company – declared illegal in the US and elsewhere.

Apple is attempting to use the hammer of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – introduced to US law in 1998 and designed to help combat unauthorised circumvention of copy protection systems on software and hardware – to have jailbreaking classed as copyright infringement and made illegal, with serious consequences for those who would make information on performing the hack available.

The company is allegedly going so far as to claim that the DMCA gives it the right to restrict interoperability with third-party hardware and software – meaning that anything the company hasn't pre-approved via its App Store or hardware licensing programmes would be made illegal within the US.

The reasons for the company to introduce such restrictions are manifold: obviously, Apple has a duty to ensure that sub-par – or, worse, actively malicious – software isn't distributed to users of its products; the flip side, of course, is that the company gets a 30 percent cut of all sales via the App Store – the only official way to get add-on software for the iPhone and iPod Touch devices. If users are finding applications from alternative sources, that's money that isn't in Apple's pocket – and it's clear that the company is keen to minimise such losses.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is wading in to the mêlée on this one, with the group asking the US Copyright Office for an “exemption to the DMCA to permit jailbreaking in order to allow iPhone owners to use their phones with applications that are not available from Apple's store” citing such popular titles as turn-by-turn satellite navigation systems, webcam applications, and the facility to use the device as a USB GPRS modem – things which aren't available to users of a virgin, non-jailbroken device.

Whether the Copyright Office will side with Apple and make jailbreaking officially illegal – and whether the hackers and crackers who produce the software to do so would actually care – is something that iPhone owners would be well advised to keep an eye on.

Do you believe that you should have the right to install whatever you want on your own legally purchased property, or is this a case where Apple really does know best? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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