Friday, October 26, 2012

It’s Legal to Jailbreak an iPhone, But Not an iPad

Jailbreaking an iOS device has been in a murky grey area legally, but it just got a lot clearer: today, the US Copyright Office issued an exemption to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act that jailbreaking a device does not violate US copyright law. However, it’s not a blanket ruling, because tablets are, according to the US Copyright Office, “difficult to define.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with a host of other electronic freedom organiziations, has been appealing to the Copyright Office to make exemptions to the DMCA legalizing the customization of a device you own. Apparently, the exception was granted to allow users to use a program that’s available on one platform, but not others. And the ruling doesn’t just apply to iPhones, but perhaps to rooting the Android platform as well. According to the document:

In order to ensure that the public will have the continued ability to engage in noninfringing uses of copyrighted works…. It provides that the prohibition shall not apply to persons who are users of a copyrighted work in a particular class of works if such persons are, or in the succeeding three-year period are likely to be, adversely affected by virtue of the prohibition in their ability to make noninfringing uses of such works.

While a end-user was likely to face legal action for jailbreaking an iPhone at home, the talented hackers who open up Apple’s closed gardens were always at risk. So this is a good thing! But it doesn’t make the landscape much clearer, because now there’s legal fragmentation for the iOS jailbreaks.

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