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IPhone Jailbreaking: For Better or Worse?

Rejoice jail breakers because yesterday the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress ruled that jailbreaking a smartphone is legal. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright’s Act (DMCA), it is fair and does not violate the smartphone companies’, such as Apple’s, copyright laws. But beware because Apple has named consequences for jailbreakers.

Every three years, Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, is required to review the DMCA to determine if any new technologies are exempt from the act. People submit recommendations for which technologies should be considered. Of 19 recommendations, Billington exempted six. In referral to the smartphones, Billington said, “[Jailbreaking is] innocuous at worst and beneficial at best.”

This issue is most relevant to the iPhone and needless to say, Apple is not pleased about Billington’s latest ruling. Jailbreaking the iPhone means users can upload applications that were not approved for Apple’s app store. Users can even break the phone so that it will work on a provider other than AT&T.

Apple objected to the proposal because jailbreaking the phone can be harmful to both consumers and Apple because of security and licensing reasons. “Apple further contended that modifying Apple’s operating system constituted the creation of an infringing derivative work,” the Copyright Office said. “Specifically, Apple argued that because purchases of an iPhone are licensees, not owners, of the computer programs contained on the iPhone … the Copyright Act is inapplicable as an exemption to the adaptation right.” Billington did not agree and accordingly ruled against Apple’s wishes because he felt that Apple was only looking to protect its reputation, not its consumers.

Apple commented on the jailbreaking rule in the support page on its website. Apple declared that it will continue to void all warranties on jailbroken phones. Jailbreaking the iPhone can make it unstable and unreliable. Apple is trying to scare potential jailbreakers with a list of things that can go wrong once the iPhone is jailbroken, such as shortened battery life, a disruption of service, unreliable voice and data, application instability, compromised security and the inability to upload future software updates. Additionally, Apple may deny service all together for any Apple product with unauthorized software installed.

Now, it is up to you to weigh the pros and cons and decide if jailbreaking is really worth it in the end.

[Photo courtesy of gadgetreview.]