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Why is a jailbreak legal in the US?

DMCA exemption makes jailbreak legal

jailbreak legalThe exemption granted in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes a jailbreak legal in the US despite Apple’s claim that jailbreak software violates copyright laws. This is great news for users who may be leery about having their iPhone jailbroken for fear of committing an illegal act. The fact of making jailbreak legal is also good for software developers, who would otherwise be shut out of the huge iPhone market.

Apple’s restrictive policies in terms of apps allowed to be installed in their devices are seen s a business decision, designed to corner the apps market. The courts ruled that while these policies are allowable, any effort to circumvent the controls to prevent third party applications from being used on the devices is not a violation of copyright. Specifically, breaking the encryption code through exploits in the code is not a violation of Apple’s copyright. This is essentially what makes jailbreak legal in the US, and applies to unlocking as well.

The ruling states that while hacking or jailbreaking a device in order to run unauthorized software is not illegal, it does not give hackers the right to modify or copy software which is copyrighted. Since jailbreaking merely moves around the codes that restrict the use of unauthorized applications, there is no copyright infringement. This is the main reason that hacks in the iPad2 cannot be made public, because it involves the publication of part or the whole of Apple’s code.

Apple is of course not happy with making jailbreak legal for the iPhone although the exemption does not include the iPad. But based on the decision of the courts, there seems no reason why the iPad should be treated any way differently from the iPhone. In fact, a jailbreak legal in the sense that it does not use any part of the Apple code has been released for the original iPad. There is the Redsn0w jailbreak 0.9.6rc15, designed for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad with the very latest iOS 4.3.3. For iOS 4.2.1, there is GreenPois0n, also compatible for iDevices except for iPad2. There is no iPad2 jailbreak yet, as discussed noted in BestJailbreakSoftware.

How far jailbreakers can push the envelope now that the courts has made a jailbreak legal is anybody’s guess. Apple maintains that their main concern is to protect the integrity of their products, which can be compromised if unauthorized developers are granted free rein to plug in whatever software they desire. Security and performance concerns may have merit, as making jailbreak legal opens the door not only to above-board software developers but also unscrupulous ones. It is up to the users to be cautious about the apps they let into their iDevice, what with jailbreak legal and all.

Author: Kaye Navarro

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