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July 27th, 2010
I-Phone is Bustin' Out!

According to new government rules announced Monday, iPhone owners will be able to legally unlock their devices so they can run software applications that haven't been approved by Apple Inc.

The Library of Congress, which oversees the Copyright Office, reviews and authorizes exemptions every three years to ensure that the law does not prevent certain non-infringing uses of copyright-protected works.  "Jailbreaking" is one of these new exemptions from a 1998 federal law that prohibits people from bypassing technical measures that companies put on their products to prevent unauthorized use of copyright-protected material.

For iPhone jailbreakers, the new rules effectively legitimize a practice that has been operating in a legal gray area by exempting it from liability. Apple claims that jailbreaking is an unauthorized modification of its software.

Unless users unlock their handsets, they can only download apps from Apple's iTunes store. Software developers must get such apps pre-approved by Apple, which sometimes demands changes or rejects programs for what developers say are vague reasons.

Although Apple has never prosecuted anyone for jailbreaking, it does use software upgrades to disable jailbroken phones, and the new government rules won't put a stop to that. That means owners of such phones might not be able to take advantage of software improvements, and they still run the risk of voiding their warranty.

Apple spokesman Natalie Kerris said Monday that the company is concerned about jailbreaking because the practice can make an iPhone unstable and unreliable.

"Apple's goal has always been to ensure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone, and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience," she said.

In addition to jailbreaking, other exemptions announced Monday would:

allow owners of used cell phones to break access controls on their phones in order to switch wireless carriers.

allow people to break technical protections on video games to investigate or correct security flaws.

allow college professors, film students, documentary filmmakers and producers of noncommercial videos to break copy-protection measures on DVDs so they can embed clips for educational purposes, criticism or commentary.

allow computer owners to bypass the need for external security devices called dongles if the dongle no longer works and cannot be replaced.

allow blind people to break locks on electronic books so that they can use them with read-aloud software and similar aides.

 The new rules take effect Tuesday and are expected to last a few years.

 

Jennifer Stisa Granick, EFF's civil liberties director, said the rules are based on an important principle: Consumers should be allowed to use and modify the devices that they purchase the way they want. "If you bought it, you own it," she said.

(Yahoo!)


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