back to article US legalizes jailbroken iPhones

US citizens can legally jailbreak and unlock their smartphones — notably Apple's iPhone — and videographers can circumvent copy protection to use short movie snippets for "criticism or comment". This rulemaking decision by the US Copyright Office's Librarian of Congress to grant exceptions to the Digital Milleneium Copyright …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    I'm sorry - did I miss something?

    "...and undermines the DMCA, which has fostered greater access to more works by more people than at any time in our history."


    1. ratfox


      That made me blink for a while, too

    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Hallucinate title here

      Seems to me I've heard this the context of "Ignorance is Bliss", "War is Peace", "We've always been at war with Eastasia". To that, I might add: "Bullshit is...still bullshit!"

    3. Brian Witham

      Ah indeed

      I often wonder if those who do this sort of spin actually start believing their own bullshit...

      1. Woodgar


        I think she is confusing DMCA with BitTorrent.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Big Brother

        They have to believe it...

        ....their income depends on it.

        Quackspeak and Doublethink will get the meals on your table every day. Not to speak of the keys to your new McMansion.

        Hell, just listen to Greenspan talking at any time during the last fifteen years.

    4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      What you missed

      I assume the spokestard was referring to the backlash that has made it socially acceptable to download and distribute copyrighted works. (YouTube alone probably *has* fostered greater access to more works by more people than all the rest of history put together.)

      Still, it seems a little unfair to blame the DMCA. The Act was just one of the mechanisms used by the big publishers to destroy this particular social contract.

    5. James 139

      I get the meaning there

      They mean "without the DMCA we wouldnt have wanted people to access works that they might have simply reduplicated and where we would have earnt nothing".

    6. Captain Thyratron

      Now that's comedy.

      I hate the smell of doublethink in the morning. It smells like...MPAA lawyers. On the other hand, I love to see the bastards squirm.

  2. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    Shaken to my very core

    This may be the most rational and level-headed bit of jurisprudence I have ever heard of. I think I need a little lie down now.

    Pint, because the people behind this sensible bit of rule-changing would get a free one from me. (If I knew where to send it.)

    1. Doug Glass
      Paris Hilton

      Now if we could only ....

      ... jailbreak presidents and politicians.

      Paris because there's no Lindsey Lohan icon.

    2. Doshu


      Hats off for rationality has won a rare victory.

      Over the lips and through the gums, watch out stomach, here it comes!

  3. Lou Gosselin

    Big Win.

    Obviously the DMCA was rushed into law without due consideration. This is a big win for the people, but I have to wonder, what changed law maker's minds? The arguments for and against the DMCA are the same today as when it was instituded. Are the media companies falling out of favor with law makers?

    1. Fred Bauer 1

      Not the law makers

      The "law makers" didn't change their mind. It's the Copyright office that's made the exemption, as they are allowed to do under the law.

  4. Craig 2
    Big Brother


    Great tactics by the EFF... The govt. etc. start with a 100% restrictive law, and the EFF are trying the "death by a thousand cuts" approach. Eventually there will be so many tiny exceptions it could become unworkable.

  5. Dodgy Dave
    Thumb Up

    Sticking it to The Man

    I'm in awe of what Apple do technically, but reading this makes me want to punch the air and say "WOOHOO! Suck on THIS!" to all the DMCAtards in corporate America.

  6. Sly
    Thumb Up


    some common sense in the copyright office. May it continue and infect Congress as well.

    1. Code Monkey

      Here's hoping...

      ...though I fear it's the exception, rather than the rule.

      I'll happily eat my hat if this common sense continues and sorts out the USA's laughable patents system.

  7. Shades

    Hang on a minute...

    ...did something sensible just happen or have I missed something?

  8. ratfox

    telephone handsets?

    So it is still forbidden to jailbreak the iPad, then?

    But my thanks to the Librarian, may he receive a cartload of bananas!

    1. Stiggy

      A title is required

      Which came first - the telephone handset or the jailbreak? An iPod Touch will run Siphon quite happily with a jailbreak and a microphone accessory.

  9. karlp

    Calm down for one second.

    Just remember, this is _ONLY_ for the actual legality of the cracking itself. This provides some safety to those writing and hosting the software used for these activities, but on the consumer side of things we still have the actual terms of service agreements and warranty provisions on the side of the carries and manufacturers respectively. Just because it is no longer illegal under the DCMA to crack under these specific circumstances doesn't change the fact that the contracts (can and do) still stipulate you may not unlock the phone (Carrier TOS/Contract) and that if you do you may be subject to actions against yourself (Carrier TOS/Contract) and your warranty on said devices will be gone (Manufacturer Eula/Warranty Provisions).

    So while it isn't "illegal" anymore, it remains a clear breach of (legally binding) contract and both the carriers and manufacturers will continue to wield the same axes as before.

    In fact I wouldn't be surprised if we see a them sharpening those axes a little more now. From a manufacturers standpoint, "kill switches" like the new Droid has may begin to make more sense and thus become far more common place now that they have lost the "legal" channel over which they could go after the people making the cracking software. If they can't deal with the issue at the high level, it may make sense to enforce it at a more general, user level.

    I hope I am wrong, but I just can't help but feel the EFF has once again done a single right that will result in a greater wrong.

    Karl P

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Contracts such as a ToS or a EULA have regularly been shown to be unenforcable, due to the inability of anyone to actually comprehend what's written in there. They may, perhaps, still apply to lawyers, but the rest of us are only really bound by the stuff that's spelled out in plain English elsewhere. At least if you take the case to court anyway.

      Also, on the individual level, it's rather like speeding. If the cops see you speeding, they're liable to give you a ticket, but they're usually too busy doing something else (eating donuts) to actively look for speeders.

      1. Highlander

        Unfortunately for you you're wrong.

        If the copyright office makes it 'legal' to hack a phone - for a 'legitimate' purpose, that's fine. but it doesn't mean that a private network operator has to allow a modified device onto their network. Considering that Cellphones participate in an encrypted data exchange, a cracked phone represents a security failure. Most networks will now simply crank up the level of protection and actively scan for and block cracked phones.

        I always hate it when the freetards representing the EFF try to use the car analogy. The problem is that you're not dealing with a car. If I were to take my car - inside the manufacturer's warranty and have a new engine management system installed, along with replacements for other significant mechanical parts, the manufacturer's dealer network would not honor the warranty on anything altered, and would weasel out of the warranty on anything that could possibly be related to the modifications. They might even refuse to service the thing at all. This is the same thing. If you crack a phone you're replacing some of he essential software components voiding the warranty of the device. Similarly to the car, why should your wireless carrier now accept that device back onto their network when they have no idea what modifications you have made?

        1. Daniel B.

          You're the one that's actually wrong.

          "Considering that Cellphones participate in an encrypted data exchange, a cracked phone represents a security failure."

          The encrypted data exchange is made by the UMTS handshaking, and that's handled by the SIM card. That particular element isn't being "cracked" by jailbreaking, so the comms are still secure. Carriers don't care what kind of data you're carrying, except maybe VoIP or if they deem that you're "hogging" resources. And unlike a car, you can actually re-flash the OS on a cellphone if it ever gets erased by a software bug. If Sony can manage this with the PSP, I can't see why a Fisher-Price toy can't be restored as well.

    2. Eddy Ito

      Re: Calm down for one second.

      Not to worry. If the jail break is to use the phone on another carrier then who really cares about the original Carrier TOS/Contract anyway and as long as there is a way to sneak back in jail then I imagine the warranty could still be in play.

      As for the axe sharpening, I wouldn't sweat it since Apple has been doing this with every software update they push out. Both to fix jailbreaks and keep the likes of Palm out and I don't believe a kill switch of some kind hasn't been worked on already. I find it more likely that Jobs has been loath to pull that particular trigger.

      1. JShel
        Jobs Horns

        Hey, Eddy...

        I can imagine a much easier fix from Apple's point of view.

        Add a line to the warranty related to jailbreaking, then next time you go for a software update instead of "fixing" your hack, Apple disowns you and will no longer update any software/firmware on that handset. Ever. Even after you sell it.

        After all, if you decide to jailbreak their system, a conscious decision on your part, you obviously are only interested in the hardware - which there would still fall under the warranty of merchantability rules/laws. But the bits, well you'll have to "rely on the kindness of strangers."

        Good luck with that.

        I'm sure AT&T will come up with something unpleasant also.

  10. Paul Crawford Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Sense at last!

    Dropping the whole DMCA would be better, but at least these key rulings make the point that what should matter is if you go on to break the law (e.g. whole sale copying), which of course is already illegal and you could be prosecuted for, and NOT if you are doing something to allow reasonable use of your *own* hardware and legally obtained media (e.g. snippets for criticism). Though in rather defined cases here.

    Also interesting will be the implications of this for the likes of "DVD Jon", after all, if circumvention of a dongle is reasonable when you can no longer get it fixed/supported, why not if you cant get the industry to fix/support your OS?

    1. Dave Bell

      DMCA Not All Bad

      There have been some shoddily-done DMCA takedown attempts, especially in the early days. But that process of notification by a copyright holder doesn't just get used by megacorps with pocketfuls of lawyers. If you're an author, and somebody has put out an unauthorised Kindle version of one of your works, you can hit Amazon with a takedown notice.

      Or I could. I have stuff out on web pages, and if somebody decides to distribute a paid-for e-book version, make money out of my work, either pay me, or obey the DMCA,

      1. Captain Thyratron

        At what cost?

        Welcome to a negligible fraction of DMCA takedown notices. Amazon's same DRM powers also let them take away ebooks you foolishly thought you bought. Besides, isn't it a little bit crooked that those work whether or not the accusation is true? Take a stroll through Title 17 U.S.C. some time. It's not a pretty place these days. I suspect that many of the clauses therein are only allowed to exist because most of the population which is legally bound to obey them does not know about it. I didn't know how bad it was until I read it myself.

        I also wish to add that authors are among the most vocal critics of the DMCA and DRM--partly because of their unfortunate effect on book sales. Books have historically been one of the most freely shared forms of media, and are the very origin of the concept of fair use--which the DMCA quite plainly shits all over. How many books have you found out about because somebody lent it to you? Books spread because their readership spreads them and thereby encourages others to get their own in hardcopy, because nothing feels quite as nice to read as a book in your hands--not to mention the little touches of clever typography that you tend to lose with ebooks. I mean, compare the Principia Discordia to its PDF analogue. I'm still ordering the thing in hardcopy because somebody lent it to me once and it's just way better than the PDF. DRM-infested texts have proven so unpopular with customers that many ebook publishers no longer bother; for example, O'Reilly's ebook sales more than double after they dumped DRM.

        In fact, it's quite common for authors to put up at least part of a work entirely for free, then advertise that the entire thing is going to be a book. Sometimes, to make the thing more attractive, the author will add material to the book that's not on the website, but often it goes both ways; for example, both the internet version and the printed version of James Lileks' _The Gallery of Regrettable Food_ have things that are not in the other; the same is probably true of _Interior Desecrations_ and, in any case, everybody I know who's bought either had already read the majority of the material on the internet--and they bought them anyway. Alternatively, putting things on the website that aren't in the book encourages more people to visit the website. It works nicely both ways, and it's a popular tactic these days. Sometimes an author will put up a few books or a few chapters and then put the full version in print; if you really liked reading it, will you flinch at the idea of spending a few dollars to have the whole thing in your hands? And that's a thing to note--books usually just aren't very expensive unless the're rare*. If the price is right, more people will pay it.

        I recall it created quite a stir when it became known that _Why's Poignant Guide to Ruby_ was going to be made into a proper printed book; I remember Ruby hackers waiting, salivating with one hand in their wallets, /to buy something that they already read for free/. Why? Because then they could own it; because then they could have it; because then it could be /theirs/. You don't get to do that with those obnoxious ebooks, software, and other media that you cannot own but merely license.

        Authors want people to read their work--not shun it because it's bound in something nobody wants that tries to prevent people from treating books like books, and part of that is sharing them with your friends. When you buy a book, you /own/ it, and that's an awful nice thing these days, isn't it?

        *Or they're recently published editions of textbooks, which obey their own horrifying system of economics because students have little or no choice in what they buy or for how much. I should be brief; that's a whole other hideous story. But who wants to pirate three hundred pages of poorly-worded calculus problems when it's $20 used anyway?

        1. Doshu

          They can still be mine (ALL mine!)

          I agree and i too like to "own" my stuff. And that is why i may jailbreak a device. By severing certain control ties with the manufacturer/provider, i am able to, for example, add an actual file manager to that device and backup my data (ebooks, etc.). It can also allow me to refuse unwanted updates that are either of no interest or will wrest control from the rightful hands of the device's owner (i.e., me).

          What i'm saying is that there's a subtle tangibility to virtual things that's not always seen or recognized and that these things CAN be *ours* if we want them to (and with a little elbow grease).

  11. Laurent_Z

    Dear Steve....

    Could you now release a jailbreak for ios 4.0.1 (oldboot) on 3gs ?

    (Mine is the one with the two large ipad pockets on te side)

  12. Taz Taziuk

    Greater access?

    "MPAA spokesperson Elizabeth Kaltman told The Reg in an email: "The Librarian's decision unnecessarily blurs the bright line established in the DMCA against circumvention of technical protection measures and undermines the DMCA, which has fostered greater access to more works by more people than at any time in our history.""

    Hah,,,the MPAA's history maybe...

  13. Anonymous Coward


    Apple's vice president of iPods and iPhone products and marketing is Greg Joswiak.

    Joswiak = Steve Jobs + Steve Wozniak?

    1. LinkOfHyrule
      Black Helicopters

      iClone Conspiracy!!!!!!!

      Maybe he's a genetic mashup of the two! He looks like Steve Jobs but he plays pranks on people by shooting yellow lazers out of his eyeballs while riding a Segway (Like Woz dose, minus actually shooting the lazers out of his eyes of course!).

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: iClone Conspiracy!!!!!!!

        Aha, MECHA-JOSWIAKU!!!!!

        If you can make him 100' tall and stick him in Tokyo, I'll round up Godzilla and a film crew.

  14. pip25
    Thumb Up


    This is a great success for the EFF, and for us as well. In fact, it's so great that I can hardly believe they passed it. I'm especially happy about the fact that now security researchers may publish their results to everyone's benefit without the fear of some idiotic retribution.

  15. Mike Flugennock

    Shoot off of a MONITOR?!

    Are they shitting us? They actually told us to go fuck ourselves.... uh, that is, get our clips by sitting our cameras on a tripod in front of a monitor?

    Cripes. A friend of mine had to pull that, once; luckily, along with a decent MiniDV cam, he also had a 16:9 LCD (or TFT?) flatscreen with nice, sharp fidelity, relatively faithful color, and no discernible flicker. Otherwise, he'd have been sunk.

    I've done that once or twice, with a camcorder pointed at the screen of my iBook turned up to full bright, in order to capture embedded video I couldn't get any other way from TV station sites that don't allow for the downloading of video files. There was no flicker to deal with, but the resulting footage took some cleaning up in FinalCutPro to make it halfway presentable.

    You see it on YouTube sometimes, too -- people with LCD flatscreens just grabbing a Flip cam or something and pointing it at the screen when whatever they want to grab comes on. The image is solid and reasonably clean, but still has that unmistakable Shot Off A Monitor Look.

    That said, yeah, that's a pretty goddamn' insulting suggestion coming from the likes of the pigopolists -- _especially_ after all that whining about the "analog hole".

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge
      Black Helicopters


      Yes it is funny they, of all people, should suggest this approach. You know, the same sort of thing in terms of filming in a cinema which they are trying to make a criminal, not civil, offence by means of the insidiously secret ACTA dealings...

      1. Captain Thyratron

        But of course.

        Obviously, the implied solution is for every student to buy a copy. I mean license. How dare you get through high school without paying proper dues to the publisher who bought the rights to your assignment!

  16. Sarah Davis

    Jailbroken iPhones,..

    also known as Jabroney Phones

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      Jailbroken iPhones...

      Also known as Good iPhones :D

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Look who is in bed together - Apple and the MPAA


    Glad I support the EFF. Go get 'em boys.

  18. JaitcH

    2010 July will go down in history

    as not being good for Jobs mental equilibrium.

    This is GOOD!

  19. bruceld


    Enjoy your happy dance while you can.

    Apple and the media corporations will appeal this ruling, and the next time they'll know better and plant a judge that they know/paid off to rule in their favor.

    Money talks people. Never forget that.

  20. mhenriday
    Big Brother

    But the joy may be premature -what happens when the MPAA and RIAA lobbyists crack the whip

    and their lapdogs in the US Congress start putting pressure on the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress to reverse this ruling ? Remember that in the US, they have the best legislators, presidents, judges, dog catchers, whatever, that money can buy....


    1. Charles 9

      Thing is...'s an election year, and there's already a backlash against bureaucracy. The MPAA and RIAA I don't think have a lot of friends among the voters.

    2. Captain Thyratron

      Perish the thought.

      Then I guess that'll put the kibosh on this whole business of jailbreaking iPhones, won't it?

  21. Number6

    Battery Charging

    I see they claim that unsafe battery charging is possible, which implies that they aren't using a dedicated hardware chip for the job but handling it in software. Does anyone with a detailed tear-down of an iPhone to hand know whether it's got a proper charger chip?

  22. Tigra 07
    Thumb Up

    Welcoming Jailbroken phones

    A victory for common sense

    Jailbreaking isn't illegal in France because they have to allow phones to use any network.

    It encourages competition and means apple has to do better than insult their customers if they want to keep them

    1. JShel
      Thumb Down

      Your Title Here

      no, Jailbreaking a phone isn't NEEDED in France because they have to allow phones to use any network. That is only one of the two reasons folks jailbreak.

      In France you still have to jailbreak to set up apps that Apple won't sell like the ones for tethering, etc. Is it legal for that purpose? I dont know French law, so I can't say. I also haven't seen the French warranty, but I'm sure Apple has something in there against jailbreaking anyhow.

      1. Tigra 07


        "no, Jailbreaking a phone isn't NEEDED in France because they have to allow phones to use any network"

        Jailbreaking isn't NEEDED (as you put it) because they have a law to protect the consumers

        Read the full post before you reply

        They have to allow phones to use any network because the law says so

        And as you admit you don't know French law then why pick me up on this when you clearly didn't read what i posted properly?

  23. David Lucke

    eBooks too, eh?

    Good to hear about the ebooks DRM one too, a little more sanity injected into that situation. Shame they didn't go a little further, I own several hundred dollars worth of drm's ebooks that I can no longer read (and the DeDRM stuff I've tried tends to cut murthering great chunks out of the books), having switched reader (from PDA to iPhone, dedicated readers suck).

  24. ravenviz Silver badge

    Potential damage to the device

    "Apple is opposed to the proposed ... exemption because it will ... [result] in potential damage to the device and [...] adverse effects on the functioning of the device"

    "Hi Susan. I was a bit bored so I dismantled my Corby Trouser Press. I can't put it back together again. Will that show up on my bill?"

    - Alan Partridge

  25. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
    Thumb Up



    now we'll see what happens next.

  26. alien anthropologist
    Thumb Up

    epic non-fail


  27. Charles 9

    As for the "Book Talker" exemption...

    ...I'm pretty sure that was to make sure the Digital Millennium Copyright Act didn't clash with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  28. Rolf Howarth

    "fostering greater access to more works"

    Well... if you go into any DVD store there are *vastly* more titles available now than there ever were in the days of VHS. Viirtually any TV show that's ever been on is available as a boxed set, for example.

    Whether that's due to the DMCA and copy protection, the fact that it's much cheaper to produce DVDs these days, or a realisation on the part of the studios that that's the only way to make some money from their back catalogue I wouldn't like to speculate.

    Don't flame me, I'm only saying :-)

    1. David 105
      Thumb Up

      @Rolf Howarth

      Why would we flame you? You've pointed out the post hoc, ergo propter hoc nature of the MPAA and Apple's arguement. Yes, we have greater access to creative works than at any time in our history, yes we have the DMCA and DRM, doesn't mean the 2 are related. That's like saying "People live longer now than at any other point in history. There are also McDonalds. McDonalds makes people live longer".

      I think the point you make is exactly the right one. We live an an age when access to new information is ridiculously easy and cheap. It was inevitable that we would have greater access to creative works given the advances made in physical media such as DVD's (which as welll as being chepaer to manufacture and hold more information than VHS are also smaller, which makes storing them on the shelves at home an easier option). Passing a law which prevented the greatest access to their works (via non physical mean such as the internet) and then claiming it caused the increase in access that was inevitable anyway is a little disingenious

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    You win some, you lose some

    Don't worry. We'll get you lot sorted with ACTA.

  30. Joe Gurman

    So where is Apple in the wrong in this?

    They made their comment sin the rulemaking process: they see it (they claim) in the interest of the phone service providers not to have jailbroken phones. Take it or leave it at face value, but they instigated not one suit under the DMCA, unlike the RIAA or motion picture industry. Did they act in their own self-interest? Undoubtedly. Check and I believe you'll find they're a for-profit company [*gasp*]. Did they harass a single iPhone owner over jailbreaking? Not that I've heard of, unless you include the cackling of the dudes at the Genius Bars when an unfortunate brings a bricked but jailbroken item into the store.

    And by the way, no need for the sick "[sic]" on this side of the big, deep, salty: there is no word "ensure" in Americanish.

    1. Daniel B.

      They tried to get this exemption shot down

      If they had won the argument on this exception, they would have started doing DMCA takedowns and other kinds of bull to go after those who make the jailbreaking tools. It would've been deemed like DeCSS. Fortunately, they lost.

  31. heyrick Silver badge

    I know why Apple lost

    One short paragraph, and the word "copyright" three times. Clearly showed where their intentions lay. Have they explained in a less me, me, me, me way why this was a bad thing to do, they might have defeated the jailbreaking clause, as "freedom to tinker" is no such a match against targetted user experience - I mean, can we all start having "freedom to tinker" our locked-up games consoles now? But no, Apple has always been about "me, me, me, me" (if you imagine a certain Mr. Work/Career/Occupation/*** saying it), and in taking this approach, have shot themselves in the foot.

    Not that I care about this, however the rules for restricted circumvention of movie DRM... whoa, that'll stir up a hornet's nest!

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Apple schmapple

      No, I really liked how they warned that unlocking would cause user experience degradation, phones malfunction, general end of the world and ... a breach of contract.

      That latter is so freakin' scary.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    No jailbraking of consoles as well?

    1. A J Stiles


      That will come in time, through case law.

  33. jason 7

    So this tells me.....

    ...that the unelected corporations and lobbyists (that actually control and rule the USA) havent taken over the (probably low key till now) Copyright Dept.

    Thats not going to last long.

  34. Doug Glass

    Yeah Right!

    And right there in my 2008 Ford Explorer's owners manual is the statement, "Ford recommends BP gasoline". Corporations will say anything to make their product seem more than it really is. That's called marketing and that's just the way it is.

    What did you expect The Sacred J to say? That his phone is crap so do what you want because it just can't be made any worse?

    Target, target .... whose got the target???

  35. alwarming

    Lindsay Lohan escapes prison!!!!!

    Afterall Jail breaking is legal now...

  36. James O'Brien
    Paris Hilton

    Ummm hold on a second here...

    Does this mean the software to rip the copyrighted videos from disc is going to be more, how shall we say, legal to have now a days and it will be easier to "backup" your movies if you should so choose?

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