Jailbreaking Your Phone May Now be Legal…But There’s a Catch

by Matt Klassen on August 3, 2010

Today its legalized cellphone “jailbreaking,” tomorrow it’ll be the legalization of marijuana, soon to be followed by the end of society as we know it. While I might be exaggerating the state of affairs in America, those that are tech savvy enough to know how to free a mobile phone from the constraints of it’s particular carrier can now do so without fear of legal reprisal, so long as it’s for personal consumption (err, use) only.

There was a time when “jailbreaking” one’s phone was risky business; thoroughly illegal yet so helpful to those that could manage to pull it off. In recent weeks, however, things have changed across America, as the U.S. Copyright Office has overturned most of the major legal issues surrounding the once controversial practice. But before you run out and start jailbreaking all your friend’s phones, there is, as always, a catch.

The ruling by the U.S. Copyright Office sparked off a deluge of indignation and anger on the part of companies like Apple, companies whose blood and sweat have gone into developing phones that rope unfortunate users into long-term binding contracts with wireless carriers that can barely handle a simple phone call.

The complaint, according to Apple, is that the process of jailbreaking a phone illegally alters the copyrighted code and programming that goes into creating a mobile phone…and surprisingly, the U.S. Copyright office couldn’t agree more.

For mobile users, however, the good thing is that the Copyright office approved the legalization of jailbreaking because although it did alter copyrighted material, it didn’t alter it enough to warrant illegality. In essence, the Copyright office granted users the ability to jailbreak a phone because it was found to only alter fewer than 50 bytes per 8 million bytes, or 160,000th of the overall program.

Companies also argued that using jailbreaking techniques to switch to unauthorized carriers violated different copyrights, to which the Copyright office countered that such modifications were protected until the ‘essential use’ clause, which allows the owner of the device to make certain modifications to a device if they’re necessary for its use.

The one caveat to all this, however, is that only you can do the jailbreaking and only to your phone. If you employ the services of a third party jailbreaker, or attempt to jailbreak other people’s phones, you are still in direct violation of the current copyright laws and subject to all legal ramifications.

But with that said, if you’re looking to get a jailbroken phone you better move quick. Rumor has it that Apple and its mobile ilk will be lodging an appeal against the decision, meaning that while jailbreaking is currently legal, it may not be so for long.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

{ 2 comments }

Bahrain News August 5, 2010 at 10:35 am

But they may also allow some shops dealer to jailbreak others iphones, becuase all peoples are not that much intelegent

Matt Klassen August 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Let’s hope so. My view on it though was that the US Copyright Office was making jailbreaking legal, but restricting it enough that still only a select few would be able to get it done.

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