U.S. Copyright Office OKs Jailbreaking

by Jeff Wiener on July 27, 2010

The United States Copyright Office has given their blessing to jailbreaking mobile devices.

The decision is part of a process done by the US Copyright Office every three years and essentially makes the action of bypassing manufacturing protection legal in the case of allowing handsets to “execute software applications.”

iPhone maker Apple, in 2008, objected to the exemption for jailbreaking phones, sending a letter to the US Copyright Office that stated that jailbreaking phones would result in “copyright infringement, potential damage to the device and other potential harmful physical effects, adverse effects on the functioning of the device, and breach of contract.”

Apple said that the practice of jailbreaking leads to more malware and physical damage.

The announcement by the Copyright Office counts as a political victory of sorts for those who are into jailbreaking and will ensure their protection under the law from potential lawsuits from companies like Apple.

To date, Apple hasn’t gone after any consumers for jailbreaking. In February of 2009, it was estimated that over 400,000 Apple users had participated in the practice. The company, however, has been relatively mum on the issue thus far and that will have to continue with the passing of this decision.

Along with the ruling on jailbreaking phones, the US Copyright Office allowed the bypassing of anti-copyright technology on DVDs for the purposes of “documentary filmmaking” and non-commercial and/or educational usage.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation applauded the ruling, stating that the use of copyright laws has put consumers in veritable prisons for too long. Now that mobile owners are free to use other software, the doors to real competition can be opened in the markets.

It’s doubtful that Apple or other phone makers will make their phones “easier to jailbreak,” as some are expecting, but they won’t be able to pursue any legal action against those that do jailbreak – not that they had in the past anyway. So will this ruling really change much other than in terms of legal jargon? Probably not.

Apple said tonight that its stance on jailbreaking will not change with the ruling, stating, rightly I think, that jailbreaking does break the warranty by “going beyond what Apple can support.”

People will continue to jailbreak their iPhones and Apple will continue to not press charges. All is right with the world again.

Image courtesy Mactropolis

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