Well, after the better part of 2 years and hundreds of thousands of iPhones jailbroken, the inevitable has happened. Apple recently decided to officially announce that, in their eyes, jailbreaking is illegal. I’m sure you will all agree with me when I say that I don’t believe this to be correct.

     For anyone that uses Cydia, you will have noticed a note posted by Jay Freeman (Saurik) on the home page called “Help the EFF free our phones”. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is an institution that confronts cutting edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation and consumer rights.

     In a statement by Fred von Lohmann of the EFF, our side is put across;

      “Jailbreaking an iPhone constitutes copyright infringement and a DMCA violation, says Apple in comments filed with the Copyright Office as part of the 2009 DMCA triennial rulemaking. This marks the first formal public statement by Apple about it’s legal stance on the iPhone jailbreaking.

     Apple’s iPhone, now the best-selling cellular phone in the U.S, has been designed with restrictions that prevent owners from running applications obtained from sources other than Apple’s own iTunes App Store. “Jailbreaking” is the term used for removing these restrictions, thereby liberating your phone fromApple’s software “jail”. Estimates put the number of iPhone owners who have jailbroken their iPhones in the hundreds of thousands.

     As part of the 2009 DMCA rulemaking, EFF has asked the Copyright Office to recognize an exemption to the DMCA to permit jailbreaking in order to allow iPhone owners to use their phones with applications that are not available from Apple’s store.

     Apple’s copyright infringement claim starts with the observation that jailbroken iPhones depend on modified versions of Apple’s bootloader and operating system software. True enough – we said as much in our technical white paper describing the jailbreak process. But the courts have long recognized that copying software while reverse engineering is a fair use when done for the purpose of fostering interoperability with independently created software, a body of law that Apple conveniently fails to mention. 

     As for the DMCA violation, Apple casts it’s lot with the likes of laser printer makers and garage door opener companies who argue that the DMCA entitles them to block interoperability with anything that hasn’t been approved in advance. Apple justifies this by claiming that opening the iPhone to independently created applications will compromise safety, security, reliability and swing the doors wide open for those who want to run pirated software.

     If this sounds like FUD, that’s because it is. One need only transpose Apple’s argument to that of the world of automobiles to recognize their absurdity. Sure, GM might tell us that, for our own safety, all servicing should be done by an authorized GM dealer using only genuine GM parts. Toyota might say that swapping your engine could reduce the reliability of your car. And Mazda could say that those who throw a supercharger on their Miatas frequently exceed the legal speed limit.

     But we’d never accept this corporate paternalism as a justification for welding every car hood shut and imposing legal liability on car buffs tinkering in their garages. After all, the culture of tinkering (or hacking, if you prefer) is an important part of our innovation economy.

      Of course, many iPhone owners will be happy to chose solely from the applications that Apple is willing to approve, just like many Ford owners are happy relying exclusively on their local Ford dealer. But if you want to pop the hood, the DMCA surely shouldn’t stand in your way.”

     I think that statement says it to a tee. We all bought our iPhones fair and square, making them our property, so who is to say what we can and can’t do with them. If Apple want to sue people for improving on their great but flawed device then i’d call that a reaction stemming from a sense of embarrassment and envy. The EFF is making a stand for the World’s iPhone community, let’s help them out. Let the Copyright Office know where you stand.