Apple is famous – or infamous – for being incredibly proprietary, and the practice of jealously guarding not only trade secrets but disallowing customers from switching carriers spills over onto other smartphone manufacturers as well. Recently, the Copyright Office announced their decision that jailbreaking is now legal. While Apple vehemently disagrees, it is now legal to unlock your iPhone or other smartphone in order to run unsupported apps and/or switch networks.
According to some estimates, more than 1 million iPhone users have jailbroken their phones – a practice which will void your Apple warranty even while unlocking the phone is technically legal now. Apple argued that allowing their phones to be unlocked infringed on their copyright. The Copyright Office disagreed. As part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, reviewed emergent technologies – like smartphones – to determine if the law might allow access to copyright material. The consensus of the government was that jailbreaking is “innocuous at worst and beneficial at best.”
Apple responded, saying, “Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience…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.” They claim that jailbroken phones are vulnerable to malicious attacks that Apple’s strict rules generally protect the phones against, and again, Apple doesn’t have to like the ruling. They can still void your warranty if your phone is jailbroken.
In a related ruling, the FCC found that educators, students, and documentary filmmakers are allowed to break copy protection measures on DVDs when they are used in the classroom or for other “noncommercial” uses.