updated 05:10 pm EST, Fri February 13, 2009
Apple jailbreaking stance
Apple has publicly defined its legal stance on iPhone jailbreaking, arguing that it represents copyright infringement and a DMCA violation, in response to an exemption filing by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that was submitted to the Copyright Office as part of the 2009 DMCA triennial rulemaking. The foundation proposal asked for an exemption that would allow jailbreaking of iPhones or other handsets, effectively liberating the devices to run applications other than those obtained from Apple's own iTunes App Store.
The iPhone-maker until now has remained relatively quiet regarding the jailbreaking issue. The exemption proposals could have a significant affect on future litigation, however, and the company has finally outlined its position in a 27-page response.
Apple suggests that the necessary modification to the iPhone's operating system and bootloader would lead to reliability issues with the handsets, while the code itself is protected by copyrights. The company also argues that the practice will contribute to the prevalence of pirated software and the illegal distribution of other protected content.
Fred von Lohmann, a legal analyst for the EFF, recognizes that jailbreaking requires modification of the software. "But the courts have long recognized that copying software while reverse engineering is a fair use when done for purposes of fostering interoperability with independently created software, a body of law that Apple conveniently fails to mention," he said.
Von Lohmann compares Apple's case to the laser printer makers and garage door opener companies that have used the DMCA laws to prevent interoperability with any third-party products that the company has not approved.
"Sure, GM might tell us that, for our own safety, all servicing should be done by an authorized GM dealer using only genuine GM parts. Toyota might say that swapping your engine could reduce the reliability of your car," he said. "But we'd never accept this corporate paternalism as a justification for welding every car hood shut and imposing legal liability on car buffs tinkering in their garages."