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Apple, AT&T face uphill hacker battle

updated 03:00 pm EDT, Tue August 28, 2007

Apple, AT&T vs. hackers

Apple and AT&T may be fighting an uphill battle to keep iPhone owners locked into their exclusive service agreements with just one wireless provider. Hackers first developed a dangerous hardware-based unlock for the popular cellular device last week by soldering connections in the iPhone, but by Friday at least one developer said an easy-to-use software unlock was close to public release. Apple and AT&T are working to put pressure on developers of such unlocks, but some legal experts say the tech giants are moving closer to legal action that could prevent a sole agreement between AT&T and the iPhone maker.

Legal experts expect AT&T and Apple to cite the DMCA's section 1201 if or when the issue reaches a courtroom, according to BusinessWeek, which states that "no person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title." The companies will claim that the iPhone's exclusive contract with AT&T is that kind of measure because it protects Apple's cellular phone software. Some say that claim is a stretch, however, and doubt the ability of both companies to fend off potential unlocking methods in court.

"This law was written for DVDs and video games," said Jane Ginsburg, a professor of literary and artistic property law at Columbia Law School. "What's going on here is using the Copyright Act to achieve another objective."

Developers planning to release unlocks publicly are not easily bending to the will of attorneys tasked with discouraging such efforts, as many believe in their right to use another cellular carrier with Apple's $500-$600 phone if they wish.

Lawyers note that it is currently legal for users to unlock their own phone, as long as they are circumventing the lock-in "for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network." The law is still unclear with regard to distributing or selling such unlocks, however, as no prior cases have dealt with this issue specifically.




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    So offwr info...

    ...and sell advertising on the site...? Or perhaps Apple could sell unlocked iPhones at a premium?

    Nobody would seem to have a 'right' to another's invention however there clearly seems to be demand - perhaps simply give the customers what they want??? ;-)

  1. ButisitArt

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Dangerous????

    >> Hackers first developed a dangerous hardware-based unlock for the popular cellular device ...

    When you you use the word "dangerous" in this article, I must ask ... dangerous in what respect? If you are editorializing, or injecting opinion, say so. If you are stating it as fact, then you might want to explain how it is dangerous. Especially since it's the first time I've seen or heard ANY news outlet or blog use the term dangerous.

    Dangerous to human life? Dangerous the life of a person's iPhone? Is it going to blow up in my face if I use this method? What exactly do you mean?

    If you are going to use the word ... you need to clarify such a statement. Did you really need to inject any more drama than there might already be?

    Any comments?

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Software unlock

    Until an actual software unlock is released, I don't believe they exist. I think that "ATT lawyer called me" story is BS. Lawyers do not call up people at 3:00 am; they send registered mail.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    copyright?

    Is this like Best Buy claiming their circulars are 'copyrighted' and trying to keep people from posting next week's sales a couple of days early? Or printer manufacturers using an encrypted microchip in their printer cartridges for no other reason then to try to use the DCMA to keep people from selling replacement ink cartridges?

    And how can you claim the DCMA has been violated if you don't know how the hack was achieved? Or is this a lame grasp at "Well, we use our software to tie our phone to AT&T. Since they've broken that link, therefore they've violated our software!" (and I guess we all ignore the section in the DCMA about unlocking phones, right).

  1. Athens

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    ButisitArt...

    ButisitArt, are you really that dense, they are referring to the fact the hardware method can render the phone totally useless if not done correct.

    Apple stands to make more money selling the phones unlocked then forcing people to get past the lock.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Re: software unlock

    Until an actual software unlock is released, I don't believe they exist.

    Right, because this is the way to garner business. Make an announcement that you have a hack, then announce you've been threatened, then hope Apple doesn't come out and say "We didn't call them!"

    I think that "ATT lawyer called me" story is BS. Lawyers do not call up people at 3:00 am; they send registered mail.

    Registered mail would not have reached them by noon the next day. Speed was of the essence, since they said they were going to start selling the service Saturday, so there was only 9 hours to go when they got the call.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    RE: bultistart

    Apple stands to make more money selling the phones unlocked then forcing people to get past the lock.

    No, they don't. They stand to make more money through AT&T from iPhone sales kickbacks and monthly revenue streams. Plus, as we all know, Apple likes 'total control', and if they control everything about the phone, they'll feel like they're letting the customers down.

    But this could really hurt Apple and AT&T. AT&T gave Apple so much in the contract for its exclusivity. They don't want to lose that and have to play on a 'fair' playing field (as 'fair' as the US cellular market can be). But Apple has a lot to lose as well. With their overseas contracts in progress, if those companies see that there's an easy way to unlock these phones and lose the tie-ins to their customers, there's less of an incentive to sign deals leaning so heavily in Apple's favor.

  1. dliup

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    mailing

    If you have done any business mailing, you will know that it's possible to get next day registered mail delivered on Saturdays. (Heck, you can do that for international mail if you pay enough).

    The lawyer's call bit is almost certain fabricated for PR exposure.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Re: mailing

    But can you get next day registered mail after midnight?

  1. Schatz

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Cancel fee

    What is the termination fee anyway? No way to dodge that i think....

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