Apple tells Copyright Office Jailbreaking iPhone is Illegal; Mozilla & Skype Support EFF’s Request for an Exemption to the DMCA

For the 2009 rulemaking, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed an exemption request with the U.S. Copyright Office to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) related to iPhone jailbreaking which allows iPhone owners to install iPhone apps that have not been approved on the App Store (due to various reasons).

Things have just got more interesting as Mozilla, Skype and Cydia have added their support behind EFF's push to get the U.S. Copyright Office to grant DMCA exception so users can jailbreak their iPhone without fear of copyright infringement penalties.

Apple had recently told the U.S. Copyright Office that it believes jailbreaking an iPhone is a violation of the DMCA and infringes on its copyright. Apple also informed the Copyright Office that the exception request by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was not acceptable as the very act of jailbreaking the iPhone results in copyright infringement.

As per Apple the current method of jailbreaking the iPhone uses unauthorized modifications to the copyrighted bootloader and OS, resulting in the infringement of the copyrights in those programs.

EFF's argument is that jailbreaking iPhone is protected under fair-use doctrines, and that the Copyright Office should grant an exemption because "the culture of tinkering (or hacking, if you prefer) is an important part of our innovation economy."

However, Apple disagreed and pointed out that few users of jailbroken iPhones actually used tools (such as PwnageTool and QuickPwn) and did not jailbreak it themselves.

But things just got a lot more interesting as companies such as Mozilla and Skype have just given their support to EEF's exception request.

CEO of Mozilla, John Lilly said in an interview with Computerworld:

"This is not us criticizing Apple,"

"But it's the principle of the thing. Choice is good for users, and choice shouldn't be criminalized. The Internet is too important for all of us for that."

Mozilla's general counsel, Harvey Anderson, wrote in the comments submitted to the Copyright Office:

"Given the choice, would we work on a platform where the sole company controlling it makes us unwelcome, or would we work on a platform, like Linux, where we are welcome? The answer is going to be easy for us,"

Anderson also pointed out that:

"These devices contain Internet Web browser, and are therefore effectively users' doorway to the Internet — a public commons. Consumers should be entitled to use any software program they choose to access the Internet."

The last statement seems to clearly highlights Mozilla's interest in getting a DMCA exemption so that they can release their mobile browser for the jailbroken iPhone. It indicates that Mozilla might be taking the unofficial approach as they feel that their iPhone app will not get approved by Apple as it would be a direct competition to iPhone's Safari browser.

It is also interesting to see Skype adding their voice behind EFF's exemption request. It indicates that they are also planning to launch their iPhone app only for the jailbroken iPhone (and not on the App Store as it was speculated) so that users can make cheap VoIP calls using their iPhone over Wi-Fi as well as their data connection. iPhone's SDK currently restricts VoIP calls only over Wi-Fi network.

Cydia was the other software developer who joined Mozilla and Skype in supporting the EFF's petition. Cydia app is equivalent to the App Store in the iPhone hacking world as it lets users install iPhone applications from any source, rather than just the App Store. In his remarks submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office, Jay Freeman of Saurik, Cydia's developer, said:

"Cydia is now installed on 1.6 million devices worldwide, at least a quarter of which are within the United States."

We will keep you posted on this developing story. Thanks David for the tip!

What do you think about jailbreaking? Do you think Apple is right in making it illegal? Should the Copyright Office accept EFF's request for an exception to the DMCA? It will be great to get your feedback in the comments below.

[via Techmeme]

Like this post? Share it!
  • Josh

    Wow, the only way to get around Apple's MONOPOLY on apps is being threatened… assholes

  • Chris

    I think it is not illegal, no matter what Apple tries to claim, for example if you buy a new care and want to change the Radio, the car company can't say you can't do that or that you'll void you warrant yon the remainder of the car. In addition, this would be like saying to someone that just bought a new computer that you can only install software purchased directly from the hardware manufacturer. Downloading firmware that has already been modified may be illegal, but using tools to modify firmware that you have downloaded (legally from Apple's site) yourself, how can it be illegal to mess around with files on your own computer or device? As long as you are not doing it to give copies to other people, the files reside on your computer and you have every right to modify files on your computer.

  • Geogo3r

    I can agree a little with apple, if a company makes money off of software that is technically against the copyright, apple can have a case whereas a group like the dev team who release their product for no cost should be fine because they aren't making money off of the process so apple really shouldn't have a problem with them.

  • Apple should just let go, hacking the iphone makes the device more appealing. You should restrict this, and I think people who are fanboys for apple should realize that it's a pretty evil corporation bent on world domination.

  • roro

    I would directly sell my iPhone if it's becoming illegal.

    Apple are stupid from time to time, they block features from their phone, plus they block talented developers to implement these features.
    Stupid squared.

  • Gohans

    Legal or not legal… I will still F*ckbrake that b*tch up!!! Viva la iPhone Revolution!

    Keep up freeing up those iphones from their jails!!!

  • Jeff in Wisconsin

    You know Apple would be able to sell multiple millions of phones if they would stop trying to be like AT&T. This monopoly dictating is not good is so going to shoot em in the foot.(cripple them) If they would just stick to what they do best which is make devices that work well with their software and let people choose the service they want for their telecommunications, this wouldn't be an issue. iPods are the class unto themselves. So is the iPhone when you consider the other wannabes.

  • John

    I bought 3 iPhone's I'll do what I want to. And if Apple don't like it we all can buy BlackBerries

  • Apple is merely protecting that nice little monopoly they set up for themselves in the form of the App Store. While this strategy may have worked with iTunes where you're dealing with artists that can't program, it can't possibly work with software developers who can create workarounds for pretty much anything. We can program anything we want for the Mac… why not the iPhone? It's just censorship in protection of a monopolistic revenue stream, pure and simple.

    Free my phone!

  • Faz

    Hold on, why should Apple not be allowed to hold onto their monopoly? They were the innovators after all, and should enjoy the fruits of their labour. There is plenty of choice out there – if you don't like it, don't use it – go get yourself a poor imitation.

    OH YEAH baby, Apple will soon be the leader in what will become the new world order… (EVIL LAUGH to fade)

  • ex-fanboy

    Apple's arguement makes no sense. This would be like Microsoft not allowing non-Microsoft programs to run on their OS. Is running Firefox on XP a copyright violation? Uhm, I don't think so.

  • Om

    I am very disturbed with apple, they are a very very creative and ingenious company and yet they have the nerve to stifle anyone else from having any creativity or freedom. Apple is a great company when they stick to what they do best, designing and creating software and hardware. When they get into trying to control what we can and cannot do…they fail, big time. A lot of people are afraid of Google's monopoly on the internet, but at least Google has never tried to come after us for being creative.

  • Iphoneninja

    can't stop us won't stop us. There's millions of users and we will continue to overthrough apples attempts. If it wasn't for us there's be no app store ya digg?? What's the governent. Gonna do arrest all of us. Power in numbers iPhone revolution indeed.

  • j katz

    its only illegal cause Apple isnt making money on it. Hey assholes, how about giving us copy and paste, mms and video like a $99 Mototola Q has and we wont need to jailbreak this thing to make it work like a normal smartphone.


    If apple doesnt want anyone else "IMPROVING" their software then they should come out with a bad ass software that doesnt need it! like mms, video recording, tattering, or even drinking a beer for fun; they should make it themselves….that way noone will make money out of their software by advertising!

  • TechnoHunk

    So, if I buy a Sony DVD player, Sony would be within its rights to prohibit me from playing any Movies other than those produced by Sony. Interesting….

  • Tim

    Apple should be thanking the Iphone Hackers for giving apple the Ideas for the App Store. It's only because of the Iphone Hackers getting custom apps on the Iphone, tnat Apple is making a HUGE CRAP LOAD of money from the App Store.. And with the App Store, selling many more Iphones.


    Dear Apple,

    I F****** hate you.

    Iphone hacker

  • rez

    Mmmm – sounds to me like someone is getting greedy?

    Apple is throwing their toys out of the pram (again). I love the comment about the car radio – I was just thinking … if I bought one of those Philips LCD TVs with the "ambient colour surround frame" under Apple's law I would not be allowed to change the colour myself if I didn't like the ones it came with!?

    They really need to be careful here as the competition is hotting up and trying to monopolise a product or service will never win.

    Microsoft is on it's way out now and if Sony hadn't been so tight with their mini disk technology back in the day we would all be using AAC instead of MP3.

    Apple beware – the power of the people is stronger than the power of the corporation!?

    There's my two pennies worth …


  • HotSpot

    Apple, just get your head out of it and listen to what the consumers are asking for.

    Hmmmm how does the saying go?

    The customer is always right!

  • HotSpot

    Yeah they developed a phone only and let them make the profit they deserve for their product.

  • dozer

    apple may want to tread lightky here microsoft suffered anti trust lawsuits after simply packing their software into their operating system this could result in alot of thing apple doesnt want such as being forced to open their platfrm to competitor software they dont want to have happen

  • Andre

    I own my iPhone Apple don't I'll do what I want with something that I own, if they don't like people jailbreaking there product then don't restrict it to get the monopoly, there are very talented devs in this world who create great apps for a jailbroken phone.

    Eat your own Apple and don't stop others eating their own.

  • kenshin


  • Ken

    Apple is stupid… Just ignore what they say… Come sue me if you can I'm from Australia!

  • Zorro

    Dear Apple.

    You fucking cocks. Continue down this path and I and many other iPhone owners will sell our iPhones and not buy another Apple product.

    Yes the iPhone is nice, but Google are catching you /fast/ and with their more open system are looking much more appealing right now.

    Apple just stop it please, your suddenly turning into Microsoft, WTF is wrong with you?

    I only bought an iPhone because it was jailbreakable. I've not jailbroken it yet but that's not the issue, I /can/ if I want to. If the situation arose where I couldn't then I /would/ get rid of it immediately.

    Careful Apple. Continue down this path and it's "Screw you guys, I'm going home" time.

  • Bastian Gatten

    I love my iphone but if they make it illegal im getting a blackberry. I mean seriously. Its my phone. I payed for it. I should be able to put what I want on it like I would do a regular computer. Its not like im leasing a car or something. Its MINE!!!

  • Nukie

    Apple has set a precedent that I believe works against their argument. They have been making computers for years in which you can install any application and use it as you wish. If Apple always had a closed system not allowing other applications on their devices, then they might have a leg to stand on. But Macs are an open platform and so should the iPhone. It's just a small computer that can also make calls.

    I look forward to the day when I can install Firefox on my iPhone. Kudos to Mozilla, Skype and Cydia for their support!

  • Their is no way that the copyright office is going to enforce Apple's request for making jailbreaking illegal. The iPhone itself is only 300$ with a contract, what are they gonna do, sue 1.6 Million people in court? They would lose more money suing one person due to legal bills, than the iPhone is even worth. Even if they managed to persuade the copyright office of their ploy, it is not going to change anything, everyone will still jailbreak it anyway. Apple, you're own ego will be your undoing.

  • Their is no way that the copyright office is going to enforce Apple's request for making jailbreaking illegal. The iPhone itself is only 300$ with a contract, what are they gonna do, sue 1.6 Million people in court? They would lose more money suing one person due to legal bills, than the iPhone is even worth. Even if they managed to persuade the copyright office of their ploy, it is not going to change anything, everyone will still jailbreak it anyway. Apple, you're own ego will be your undoing.

  • Jonny H

    Wow. I think apple will lose in this one.

  • alyx

    How pathetic.

    “Illegal”? “Penalties”? What else? 20 years without parole?
    And what, for screwing around with stuff that is *mine*? Helllloooo?

    I can’t recall a line on my invoice for the thing saying that I cannot tinker with it any way I wanted.
    These corporate zombies should really get back in touch with reality, maybe hang out some more, see people, have fun and all that. I don’t know, but the way they act now they embarrass themselves more and more.

    Apple, if you don't like what I do with MY phone, well, that's just too bad, but I don't give a frack.

  • brandon

    Before i get my head chewed off read this: I don't like Apple's dictatorship policies. If i had one wish, it would be for an open-source iphone.


    Most of you guys aren't completely understanding what Apple is saying is copyright infringement. If you buy an iPhone, and can go in a hack it without DOWNLOADING a modified bootloader, then thats fine. Apple doesn't like that these hackers have taken their copyrighted software, modified it and are giving it away to people. That means that people can download Apples copyrighted software without even having to buy an iphone.

  • myra

    well, apparently this is only because apple wasnt kind enough to provide us with an open source bootloader.
    it's them who locked up the whole system, now they're wondering why all those nice people want to crack it? it's a goddamn computer+phone, not a cable settopbox, terminal or some other rent-crap-hardware. we pay for it, and every piece of a goddamn code they were kind to put in it. i didn't sign a fracking eula when i bought it, so i dont give a damn whose software it runs. i've never heard of asus complaining about people hacking their bioses. well, frack me, apple and these corporate bitchezz lawyers of theirs should get more of a life, rather that our money for a change!

  • GaryD

    Apple is gay. What a bunch of Nazi communists. Give it up already!!

    Good luck on enforcement. Seems to me some ex-RIAA officials are working at Apple now.

    If that law passed I will give back my phone to the telco and cancel my plan. I suggest everyone else do the same. Google Android just became that much more appealing.

  • The purpose of copyrighting something is to prevent others from making money off your work. Definition of copyright from the Merriam-Webster dictionary: the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work)
    It says nothing about modifying it or using it in any particular way. (the key thing would be that we jailbreak it our selves or have someone jailbreak it for us, just as long as we don't distribute the jailbroken software) According to the definition, there is absolutely nothing illegal about jailbreaking your phone.
    Now there might be the issue were someone jailbreaking if for you would be considered distributing, but that might be disputable, since it is being created for that phone in particular (not using the firmware that he created for his own phone but remake it) and that person is "representing" you in some way, but even if that didn't work then that just limits to you using the tools that DEV team has provided us to modify (which i again point out is completely legal) our own phone.

  • Andrew

    While most may glance over this and feel as if there is nothing to worry about, they are partly right, but also wrong. This can set the precedent for future hacks and modifications on other devices.

    The problem isn't the AppStore monopoly but mostly that the jailbreak process requires certain code that belongs to them, thus they believe the jailbreak process is illegal. While this does have a lot to do with the AppStore, this isn't truly the only reason why. Reverse engineering proprietary software is ussually illegal and is usually done underground.

    In my opinion, they are making big deal for no reason seeing as how this actually gives users freedom to do what they want with there phone. But by law, they are allowed to prosecute those who use their code, which is copyrighted, without their permission. Its unfair and the DMCA should be changed, but we'll see what happens. Honestly, the outcome won't be that big of a deal and if they really wanted to, they could close the security hole that allows jailbreaking instead of uselessly making it illegal when no cop would do anything and most of the jailbreaking is underground already. Oh what a world we live in.

  • Andrew

    Or Google (Andriod) phones. Open platform. I found out too late … damn.

  • cornholio

    they won't close "the hole" because they know that this particular "hole" is on the minds of lots of current-and-soon-to-be users. they do know that it brings a lot of attention to the iphone, that it brings new customers to the app store and that it makes iphone application that much wider without them spending a penny. but of course they've got to maintain hypocrytic face of theirs so the big bananas share holders don't get upset, thus they pump the copyright sh!t load of crap up the alley, upsetting US – the no-bananas users.

  • Andrew

    That is true. As a company grows, they must continually answer to their shareholders rather than their customers. I am curious about how this will shape out, but to be honest, if people at the Copyright office had any brains (and they don't), than they would simply ignore their request because Apple can simply send an update to stop jailbreaking (Heck, some iPods can't be hacked at all). But honestly, atleast for me, if it was for the jailbreaking, the iPhone would be ok at best. And most at Apple know that jailbreaking actually help them sell hardware, which is 1st on their list.

  • Well it is easy for Apple to fix. Stop denying so many iphone apps from the app store. So what if a mobile FF browser competes with Safari. Apple doesn't make money with Safari being on the iphone (AFAIK), so why reject the competition. Plus the more apps on the app store the more money Apple makes. So their whole complaint just doesn't make sense. I don't currently have a iPhone but I would like to get one. However, if they really do break the jailbreak ability I'm pretty sure I would go with something else, or nothing at all.

  • Lilas

    I will jailbreak my brand iphone that I will get this weekend… if it gets broken I will buy another one… wtf!

  • Pj

    Apple just wants to run everything. They want you to have to buy their products to use their products. There are a lot of good programs and apps out there, but apple only wants people to use their stuff. That really sucks. The iPhone would be so much better if they would just make it an open market and the users not have to jailbreak. Just make it so we can run whatever we want on our phone. Damn!

  • simond Mclegson

    Apple is just saying that if you use their licensed boot loader, that you do not have the right to make changes to it to do something else.

    From a software prospective only, I would have to agree. If I license a program & put restrictions in it so that I can sell a higher level of service at a different rate, I would want this protection.

    As a developer, I agree with apple, but as a user… who the hell do they think they are!

  • JB

    Apple should be grateful for jailbreak/unlock if not the iphone sales would be very low because at&t is not worldwide.. they should think about all the non at&t users that gave them business i bet some the non at&t user actually buys legit software…

    come on apple we just want to use your fabulous phone on any network give us a damn break…

  • Mike

    I don't like it, but it is technically a copyright violation. That is why the companies are asking for an exemption.

    I think what Apple is doing is possibly a monopoly that violates anti-trust laws, but taking their code and making something new out of it is a copyright violation.

    If the code wasn't based on apple's code it wouldn't be a violation, but because the code is based on apple's boot loader, it is a copyright violation. plain and simple.

  • JL

    Legality is not the point here. What is at stake is both the public's free and unrestricted enjoyment of the Internet and anticompetition.
    The later is exemplified in the Internet Explorer Microsoft case – that Microsoft lost. The ruling was clear: Controlling access to the Internet stifles competition – an essential stimulus of innovation – and thus should not be allowed.
    The internet is a commons, not the property of Apple, hence governments should rule that no corporation can prevent our free and open choice to use a different software for access to the Internet.

    Apple is not listening to Lego and others who have understood that openness is essential to long tern success.
    Sad, for a company previously associated with "cool". Apple is becoming Microsoft 🙁

  • Mitch

    I know people on this forum are likely to be anti-microsoft, but let's not forget that microsoft has in the past been forced to release sdk's for the purpose of letting developers make software that works with windows. People have been modifying firmware for WM devices, and Microsoft *generally* ignores this. I would imagine microsoft is just happy we are still using their software. Jailbreaking an iphone requires modification of proprietary code, which is illegal, however Apple must realize that an overwhelming portion of THEIR market share DEMANDS to be able to run whatever software they wish. This lack of choice is what pushed me to get rid of my Sidekick so long ago, and move to a WM device, and also why I will NEVER consider an Iphone. Apple needs to get with the program, or (hopefully) lose massive market share to other devices (WM, G1) that respond (better) to consumer demands.

    Everyone who does not like apple's policy here should stop being iSheep, throw away your iPhone and go get something else. Apple will get that message loud and clear.

  • Mickey

    Its not a monopoly because the iphone doesnt exsist in its own market. Mitch is correct! Msoft had to share because a whole market was dominated by their software. Copyrights are valid and exclusive for 7 years, so its legal. Its only illegal to make a profit off protected work product, and apples claim is spurious when directed towards freeware. They should hire you smart guys…I mean, they put millions into safeguards, and you fellas always find ways around it…cheers..american innovation and drive is alive and well! Cheers for you, jeers for apple!

  • JCMieses

    I'm all for Jailbreak and software development. If I compare this to the industry I work in, this would almost be like making reverse engineering illegal. Many companies make a living by reverse engineering hardware (say for jet engines), improve on it, and give customers a better more cost effective option. Eventough is not illegal it does void warranties (in part or whole) since in the OEMs defense they have no control over the "alternative" so they can't vouch for how it operates. So the developers have to step in an support their product and not just put it out there.

  • Mathematician

    I'd like to point out that if you own an iPhone, you have already paid Apple for the hardware and base software. I can understand a case against hacked/cracked apps, but not jailbreaking the iPhone to install Firefox, etc. Apple has made its money for the software already.

  • Some guy in CA

    Im 13 but we paid for it and out there in england it's illegal to sell locked phones. I got this from a person from Europe "In Europe, it's theoretically illegal for the Service Suppliers to
    lock you into using their own network but, of course, they take no notice."
    So if it's like it there why not in america? What if someone orders it and it's from Europe. They can't arrenst them 4 that. Personally i think if they have it for at least the major networks they be find and let people jailbreak. Over 1/3 to 1/4 of iphone users have their phone jailbroken. Apple if anything add cydia and icy to the app store. LOL i jailbroke over 3 iphones for friends and 4 ipod touches but they just care 4 iphone. My friends might just get the G1 because they can download diffrent browsers and ect. G1 is like an iphone but with cydia instead of app store. "Money is the roote of all evil."

  • $ebby

    I don't like that Apple wants jailbreaking to be illegal!
    If I use me as an example; I bought an iPod Touch and I thought 'This is a very good iPod, I can play music, watch videos, play games, surf trough the internet etc.' But suddenly my Lock Button stopped working and I looked at prices for reparing it, but then I came over 'Cydia' and I thought 'Why don't give jailbreaking a try? 'Cause it's already broken.' So, I jailbroke my iPod and installed a program wich allows me to turn of my iPod and take screenshots.

    I can't see any harm in that:P But there is one thing I understand with apple, and that's the cracked apps

  • Hector

    We are the ones spending our hard earned money on the latest technolgy…and us being limited to what we can do and can't do….is simply unfair. Shouldn't we get our moneys worth just like Apple is getting theirs for their hard work and dedication for the assembly of the iPhone? The way they create the iPhone and get their moneys worth after every sell, thats the way we should get our moneys worth after we buy an iPhone. We shouldn't be inadequate to what we can and CAN'T DO!!!!!!!!!! >=^( APPLE IS UNFAIR!!

  • Montana

    The problem is not just Apple not approving apps, it's the high price developers have to pay/year for them to even look at it!

  • Windows 7 Must let the users select more then one Browser its not anymore only IE, If you pay for i Phone its yours do What you like with it, Personally I hate Safari and I love Firefox and Ill would like to have it on my iPhone 3GS I am waiting for new Jailbreak and I will install it I don't give a shit what apple Thinks, I want to Dev open-source Apps for it for those who want them.

  • Evren Yurtesen

    I think that it is waste of time and money to argue with Apple. If you want less resistance, just use Android. Solution is simple enough!