Jailbreaking isn’t Legal Just Yet

Saturday, July 07, 2012

During the launch of Apple’s latest iPad and iOS 5.1, the latest version of its Mobile Operating System, the hacking community was already abuzz with how long it would take them to jailbreak the OS. Not surprisingly, the hacking community came through in less than a day. Apple has never pushed for criminalization of jailbreaking or prosecuted a hacker. Apple just maintains that the practice could potentially harm your phone. However, it has continued to ban apps and censure even others which it claims infringes on developer guidelines.

Other companies however are strict and fight any hacker full throttle. Take for example George Hotz, alias Geohot who provided a jailbreak for Sony PS3. He was dragged through courts and though he eventually settled, he had to fork out massive legal fees and agree to an injunction which required him to remove tools from the internet and never to hack again.

Strictly speaking, most proponents and users of jailbroken software ask why it should be a crime to circumvent closed platforms. Many users contrary to expectations of piracy, end up just enjoying tweaks, apps and customization that manufacturing companies like Apple either don’t provide or have banned.

The jailbreaking furor in the mobile computing world began when petition led to Librarian congress issued exemptions and determined that installation of softwares that are acquired from third parties for non-infringing reasons cannot violate the U.S copyright law. Jailbreaking before then was illegal under the DCMA, the ‘Digital Millennium Copyright Act’ which specifically prohibited circumvention of software protection mechanisms by the parent company. The declaration of legality led to developer hackers publicly releasing their releases just days later. For example, jailbreakMe 2.0 was released at the website jailbreakme.com allowing users to install it via Apple’s Safari Browser. One of the prolific jailbreak softwares developers, Comex, announced that he was able to fix the MMS and video chat functional problems that JailbreakMe introduced.

Perhaps what can be considered as Apple’s surprise moves was to talk the hacker “Comex” real name Nicholas Allegra into accepting a job with them. Proponents have seen this as a move to have the prolific hacker help seal loop holes that hackers exploit that will make Apple’s OS secure for good.

Multinational software and computing companies are pushing for what they term as a case of legislators not knowing how to adapt the US law to fit into the current technological developer needs and the digital realm. Indeed jailbreaking is on a temporary legal status and could be confirmed or repealed at the end of this year. With the current wave of technology suits this year, the SOPA, PIPA and megaupload trackdown, we cannot be quite sure how it will turn out for the jailbreaking community.

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