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Technology Corner: Jailbreaking Your iPhone, iPad

abstract:People "Jailbreak" their iphone when they want to buy or use applications not sold via Apple's App store. They can also use their phone as a "tether" to their home computer and access it remotely, access files on their home computer remotely using their phone, etc. What's wrong with that? Well, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 says it's illegal. But aspects of the DMCA changed today. Need a little background? Wikipedia describes it thus:Jailbreaking is a process that allows iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users to run third-party unsigned code on their devices by unlocking the operating system and allowing the user root access. Once jailbroken, iPhone users are able to download many extensions and themes previously unavailable through the App Store via unofficial installers such as Cydia. A jailbroken iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch is still able to use the App Store and iTunes. Jailbreaking is different from SIM unlocking,

article:

July 29, 2010
— which, once completed, means that the mobile phone will accept any SIM without restriction on, for example, the country or network operator of origin. Jailbreaking, according to Apple, can void Apple's warranty on the device, although this is quickly remedied by restoring the device in iTunes."[Additional source: blog.iphone-dev.org]

Aside from issues of legality it brings up an interesting question. What rights does a consumer have over the things he/she buys that use digital technology that can be traced, locked, monitored and even removed after they bought it? Have you ever purchased a song on itunes via your laptop, then wanted to copy it to your ipod or another device? It can be a nightmare. What about the good old days of purchasing a record or CD and playing it with your home stereo, then your car player, lending it to a friend, and so on? You can even sell old CD's - the same goes for books. Who thinks twice about the copyright infringement of loaning a book to a friend? But you couldn't event give an itunes downloaded song to a friend when you were finished with it. (Tell me if you can, and how.)

Can you think of an instance where breaking into devices or software to access code is beneficial? I can. When you are handicapped and need to access the code to insert your "read aloud" software or to rend text into special formats.

Check out this announcement from the U.S. Librarian of Congress concerning changes to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act...Andrew Richard Albanese from Publisher's Weekly ( July 27th, 2010) had this to say. "U.S. Librarian of Congress James Billington this week announced six new revisions to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including a provision that allows device or product owners to legally break encryption in some cases. The revision blunts one of the DMCA’s more controversial provisions, Section 1201, which prohibits users from breaking encryption under any circumstance. A chorus of critics, including author and PW columnist Cory Doctorow, have long argued against Section 1201, noting that it unfairly locks down products and prohibits uses expressly permitted under copyright law.

Among the revisions: an exception that allow users to break cell phone encryption in order to switch carriers; an exception that allows educators, students and filmmakers to break copy-protection measures on DVDs in order to embed clips for “educational purposes, criticism, commentary and noncommercial” purposes; and an exception specifically for e-books that allows the handicapped to break encryption in order to use “read-aloud” software or other “screen readers that render text into a specialized formats.”

In a statement, Jennifer Stisa Granick, EFF’s civil liberties director told reporters that the revisions reinforce an important principle: “If you bought it, you own it.” Unfortunately that’s not quite true, since most of the devices or products one might crack are subject to license terms. While the narrow revisions might release users from legal liability under the DMCA, they do not supersede any contract you may have signed, or more accurately, clicked on. Thus, Apple, for example, may not be able to sue you, but it can refuse to service a “cracked” iPhone for example, or Amazon can still cancel your Kindle account.

And the revisions surely won’t deter anyone from placing restrictions on devices or products in the first place, especially because the DMCA still forbids anyone from distributing to the public any technology designed to break access controls. In fact, as a then 15 year-old Norwegian boy and one U.S. journalist learned, the law even prohibits you from telling others where they can learn how to crack a device. In other words, Billington’s revision may allow you to legally jailbreak your phone, you just can’t tell anyone how you did it. But, hey, the revisions are a nod toward balance in copyright law, and in today’s climate, that’s something."

 

 

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