updated 05:00 pm EDT, Sat August 25, 2007
iPhone unlock firm threat
AT&T on Saturday has reportedly threatened legal action against a company that claims to have produced a software-unlock solution for Apple's iPhone. iphoneunlocking.com, a subsidiary of UniquePhones, promised to deliver the remote software unlocking services for the iPhone at 12 noon EST on Saturday, before it received a call from AT&T's lawyers early Saturday morning. Unlike recent reports, the company's software-based unlock solution has not been publicly demonstrated or confirmed. The lawyers, representing the US largest carrier, cited copyright infringement and illegal software dissemination, leading UniquePhones to seek additional legal advice and hold off on offering the unlocking service. [story updated]
"The sale of unlocking codes is on hold after the company received a telephone call from a Menlo Park, California, law firm at approximately 2:54 a.m. this morning (GMT)," the company wrote on its log. "Until an assessment is made of the potential of legal action, Uniquephones is unable to release the unlocking software for sale."
Interestingly, unlocking a cell phone last year became a recognized exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): the Register of Copyrights recommended six, limited exemptions, including an exemption for cell phone firmware that ties a phone to a specific wireless network. The exemption is valid for three years.
The company spokesperson also said that the company would also be evaluating what to eventually do with the software should they be legally denied the right to sell it: "A substantial delay caused by any legal action would render the unlocking software a less valuable commodity as well as creating unforeseen security issues for the company."
Separately, the iPhoneSIMfree.com team on Friday said they also had developed a software solution to use Apple's iPhone on any any carrier network, threatening to bypass AT&T's exclusive contract with Apple and enable the device for other carrier networks such as T-Mobile in US (and GSM networks in other countries).
The unlocked phone, demonstrated on Engagdet, used a T-Mobile SIM card in place of AT&T's default card, allowing the users to make calls, send text messages, and check email on an iPhone using their chosen T-Mobile service provider. Apple and AT&T launched the iPhone under an exclusive contract designed to seal customers into two-year service plans with AT&T, preventing iPhone owners from using other carriers.