Apple may have so far given the iPhone jailbreak community a good bit of leash to play with, but that doesn’t mean the iPhone maker is all for people opening up the iPhone’s filesystem to third-party code. Jailbreaking the iPhone serves to remove the any software protections put in place to keep users from modifying the file system directly. To that end, Apple has just entered the ring in a fight to keep the iPhone’s iPhone OS protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
You see, there’s this law, known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that basically protects copyrights on just about any digital media out there. And, since times are a changing, the US Copyright Office updates the DMCA’s list of exemptions every three years. Unfortunately, the latest round of proposed updates to the DMCA has drawn the ire of mighty Apple.
At stake is the legality of mobile phone “jailbreak” procedures that allow cellphone users to install their own software on their mobile phones. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has petitioned the US Copyright Office to add handset jailbreak procedures to the DMCA’s list of exemptions. Naturally, Apple is none too pleased to hear that the EFF is looking to make it legal to jailbreak cellphones like the iPhone. As such, Apple has filed their own petition (PDF link) with the US Copyright Office in an attempt to keep any “jailbreak” language out of the DMCA’s exemption list.
Says Apple in regards to the EFF’s request to make the jailbreak legal:
Apple is opposed to the [jailbreak] exemption because it will destroy the
technological protection of Apple’s key copyrighted computer programs in the iPhone™ device
itself and of copyrighted content owned by Apple that plays on the iPhone, resulting 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.
Apparently, the legalization of the jailbreak is seen as a potential threat to Apple’s intellectual property. In response, the EFF filed a second briefing addressing some of the issues Apple mentions as reasons to keep deny the EFF’s petition. At the heart of the EFF’s argument is Apple’s lack of any clear guidance on iPhone App Store approvals. The EFF claims that Apple’s policies regarding iPhone applications and their approval for the iPhone App Store is reason enough to make iPhone jailbreaking legal – Apple’s approval of third-party web browsers that conflict with Apple’s own non-duplication policy and Apple’s delay in approving iPhone apps like Newber are mentioned as reasons to legalize jailbreak procedures.
The move to make it legal to jailbreak cellphones is more based on principle than practice. As it stands, the iPhone jailbreak is currently covered by the DMCA. But, that hasn’t stopped throngs of iPhone users from jailbreaking their handsets in order to install all kinds of unauthorized applications.On the other hand, if the EFF succeeds in legalizing the jailbreak, iPhone owners won’t have to worry about Apple coming after them for wanting to have copy/paste functionality on their iPhones.