Jailbreaking Your iPhone Remains Legal In US; But Illegal To Jailbreak Your iPad And Unlock Your iPhone Under DMCA


Back in 2010, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had won two critical exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which made it legal for users to jailbreak and unlock their iPhone.

It didn’t change things much for iPhone users as the cat and mouse game between Apple and the iPhone hacking community has continued, but from a legal point of view they could jailbreak their iPhone without fear of copyright infringement penalties.

However, the exemption needed to be renewed again this year, otherwise it would expire, which could make jailbreaking your iPhone illegal. Since the exemption was only for smartphones, EFF also wanted to address it by expanding the exemption to also cover tablets.

We have some good news and not so good news on that front. The Librarian of Congress, which has the power to grant exceptions has included jailbreaking of smartphones in the list of exceptions until 2015.

The new rules allow circumvention of “computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset.” In other words, jailbreaking is permitted for “telephone handsets.”

Unfortunately though, they haven’t expanded the exemption to also cover tablets as the Librarian “found significant merit to the opposition’s concerns that this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined, as a wide range of devices might be considered ‘tablets,’ notwithstanding the significant distinctions among them in terms of the way they operate, their intended purposes, and the nature of the applications they can accommodate. For example, an e-book reading device might be considered a ‘tablet,’ as might a handheld video game device or a laptop computer.”

In 2006 and 2010, the Librarian of Congress had included unlocking mobile phones in the list, which allowed users to unlock their mobile phones so that they can use it with any other carrier. However, this year, the Congress has excluded it from the list.

The Register concluded after a review of the statutory factors that an exemption to the prohibition on circumvention of mobile phone computer programs to permit users to unlock “legacy” phones is both warranted and unlikely to harm the market for such programs. At the same time, in light of carriers’ current unlocking policies and the ready availability of new unlocked phones in the marketplace, the record did not support an exemption for newly purchased phones. Looking to precedents in copyright law, the Register recommended that the class designated by the Librarian include a 90-day transitional period to allow unlocking by those who may acquire phones shortly after the new exemption goes into effect.

It essentially means that it is no longer legal to unlock your mobile phone without carrier’s permission. If you’re interested, you can read the entire document at this link.

While it is good to see the exemption for jailbreaking iPhones extended, we doubt this will stop people from jailbreaking their iPad and unlocking their iPhones. Apple has always maintained that unauthorized modification of the iOS is a violation of the iPhone end-user license agreement and because of this, Apple can deny service for an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch that has installed any unauthorized software.

We would love to hear your thoughts, so please drop us a line in the comments.

[via ArsTechnia]

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  • Alan

    Once I buy the phone or tablet, it’s mine. I can and will do whatever I want with it. Who cares what Apple or DMCA thinks. Peace out!

    • fairportfan

      And when AT&T or whoever notices and permanently bricks your phone – as is their right – what ya gonna do?

  • freethinker123

    This all applies ONLY for the USA, but luckily the world does not consist only of the US. US laws have NO jurisdiction outside its border even though some think they do. Cheers for the rest of the world.

  • Lr1022

    I tremendously agree with you Alan!!!
    It’s our money!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1081419263 Joseph Pham

    only dumb people argue that because they “paid” for something means they can do “whatever” they want with it… i hope they’d feel the same way when someone say that to them while holding a gun at their face.

    • Fuddernutz

      Horrible example

      And yes if I buy something no one should be able to tell me I can’t modify it….if its a hand gun a better example would be the manufacturer telling me I can only shoot the bullets they sell.

      Jail breaking any device should be legal

    • grim reefa

      That is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard somebody say on this site. Plus you cant even think of rational or relevant examples for your argument which makes you look even more stupid.

    • hakim

      do you think unlocking my iPhone is gonna affect you in any way ??

    • Mark

      Yes. I’m gonna kill someone with the iPod shuffle I just bought. Deadly little things.

      • darkpower

        that’s like saying i cant modify a Nerf gun

  • iguyphoneman

    so does this mean we cant legaly flash iphones either? it only states unlock so if we were to to flash an iphone 4 from say verizon to cricket would that be illegal

  • Warbrast

    Look if these twats want to sell me crap and remove my right to mess about with the software that’s fine as its there software like they say BUT if I don’t own it then don’t charge me for it

    • DannyGGG

      You bought the hardware. You only license the software.

  • chris

    I paid good money for my device, while there are certain things, like Piracy that should obviously be illegal, it should not be illegal for me to modify my device, no matter what that device may be.

    As for locked cell phones, it should be illegal for the carrier to lock the phone.

  • Astig_808

    i do what i want with it

  • Xay

    Damn apple and dmca I buy my device for their ridiculous price therefore I’m going to do what the hell Eva I want to with it holla with the middle finger

  • iphone jailbreak

    Modem features are another favored usage of jailbroken apples iphone. Lots of folks appreciate tethering their phones to their laptop computers for wireless broadband.

  • riley

    the only reason why i have any idevices is so i can jailbreak them.

  • Joker David

    Are DMCAA buying my phone or me ? So stay away from my Device, don’t make a f**k off regulations. Apples without JB is So sucks !

  • bickerer

    many ignore, that USA is actually only a fraction of the world. the entire rest of the world couldn’t care less about legislation in the US. so….if we are outside the US….go right ahead!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Leon-Feild/100000472295412 David Leon Feild


    § 27.16 Network access requirements for Block C in the 746-757 and 776-787 MHz bands.

    (a) Applicability.
    This section shall apply only to the authorizations for Block C in the
    746-757 and 776-787 MHz bands assigned and only if the results of the
    first auction in which licenses for such authorizations are offered
    satisfied the applicable reserve price.

    (b) Use of devices and applications.
    Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall
    not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the
    devices and applications of their choice on the licensee’s C Block
    network, except:

    (1) Insofar as such use would not be compliant
    with published technical standards reasonably necessary for the
    management or protection of the licensee’s network, or

    (2) As required to comply with statute or applicable government regulation.

    (c) Technical standards. For purposes of paragraph (b)(1) of this section:

    Standards shall include technical requirements reasonably necessary for
    third parties to access a licensee’s network via devices or
    applications without causing objectionable interference to other
    spectrum users or jeopardizing network security. The potential for
    excessive bandwidth demand alone shall not constitute grounds for
    denying, limiting or restricting access to the network.

    (2) To the
    extent a licensee relies on standards established by an independent
    standards-setting body which is open to participation by representatives
    of service providers, equipment manufacturers, application developers,
    consumer organizations, and other interested parties, the standards will
    carry a presumption of reasonableness.

    (3) A licensee shall
    publish its technical standards, which shall be non-proprietary, no
    later than the time at which it makes such standards available to any
    preferred vendors, so that the standards are readily available to
    customers, equipment manufacturers, application developers, and other
    parties interested in using or developing products for use on a
    licensee’s networks.

    (d) Access requests.
    (1) Licensees shall establish and publish clear and reasonable
    procedures for parties to seek approval to use devices or applications
    on the licensees’ networks. A licensee must also provide to potential
    customers notice of the customers’ rights to request the attachment of a
    device or application to the licensee’s network, and notice of the
    licensee’s process for customers to make such requests, including the
    relevant network criteria.

    (2) If a licensee determines that a
    request for access would violate its technical standards or regulatory
    requirements, the licensee shall expeditiously provide a written
    response to the requester specifying the basis for denying access and
    providing an opportunity for the requester to modify its request to
    satisfy the licensee’s concerns.

    (e) Handset locking prohibited.
    No licensee may disable features on handsets it provides to customers,
    to the extent such features are compliant with the licensee’s standards
    pursuant to paragraph (b)of this section, nor configure handsets it
    provides to prohibit use of such handsets on other providers’ networks.

    (f) Burden of proof.
    Once a complainant sets forth a prima facie case that the C Block
    licensee has refused to attach a device or application in violation of
    the requirements adopted in this section, the licensee shall have the
    burden of proof to demonstrate that it has adopted reasonable network
    standards and reasonably applied those standards in the complainant’s
    case. Where the licensee bases its network restrictions on industry-wide
    consensus standards, such restrictions would be presumed reasonable.

    [72 FR 48849, Aug. 24, 2007]

    • Sk

      Very simple … If my money is good for paying for thier devices, but these will never be considered mine to handle as I wish. Then I will spend my money elsewhere! First they limited our internet usage and now the want to control how we handle our property. Go ahead big companies, brick my phone … Give me a reason to cancel your contract.

  • Kev215

    apple device is now like not dev friendly

  • Oscar

    The tablet or phone I purchased is hardware that belongs to me and I am free to perform any modifications and alterations I want as long as these modifications are not designed to pirate software. This is how technology is improved, not only by the innovation of software designers and hardware manufacturers, but also by users who have an interest to explore the limits that their electronic equipment can attain. This is how we progress as a nation, not by the limitations imposed to us but by the freedoms that allows us to grow and innovate.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bahb.lee Bahb Lee

      I totally agree

    • s dubbya

      You do own the hardware, but do you own the software?

  • Jailbreak

    This is bull I paid good money for my I device it’s my business with what I do to it. Jailbreaking should be a choice

  • exon33

    People need to organize somehow to pressure their reps. Perhaps a Moveon.org petition. They work. If your carrier sucks or is abusive, like ATT, once you get out of their contract, you should have the right to use that phone you purchased with another carrier (even at a discount from the carrier–heaven knows that they have gouged you enough over 2 years to more than pay for the damned thing)..

  • Anthony

    I agree with everyone really, if apple is that ignorant to try and stop us from customizing our device we will take action and do it ourselves, stop making themes money, our devices are bland, we want more options in customization, until then the jailbreaks will not stop.

  • Cody

    It’s dumb if you do NOT jailbreak your iPhone at least. I mean common. After being jaibroken for 2 months now, the old way is like being locked down all the time.