Apple has always been against jailbreaking and hacking of their iPhone, iPad and iPod devices from the first day they were released. It outlines in the Terms of Service and User Agreement that doing so will not only void the warranty, but also invite dangerous situations into the device and wholly prohibits the action. However, despite the company’s steep disagreement, the Library of Congress ruled in favor of the people: jailbreaking is legal and Apple can do nothing about it.
The Federal Law of 1998
The original federal ruling, called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, supposedly stops pirates from exploiting and hacking Digital Rights Management measures included within any software program. This original 1998 law is supposed to disallow any user of any device to bypass the Digital Rights Management (DRM) measures in place that would prevent users from unlawful or unauthorized usage of copyrighted material. This measure and law would make it difficult and illegal to tamper with, copy, or distribute a copyrighted work such as the software found in the iOS devices.
The 2010 Ruling
The recent ruling by the Library of Congress made an exception to the 1998 law, stating that Apple has no basis to use it against its users and their devices. By no basis, they apparently mean Apple has no right to use the DMCA law that was meant to protect copyrighted works against infringement as a basis to “protecting their restrictive business model,” states a report by Wired.com.
The ruling by the Library of Congress allows users to unlock or jailbreak their devices, thus allowing users to purchase, download and install applications and programs from anywhere they want, not just the App Store. Essentially, the ruling tells Apple that the users own their devices and can use them how they see fit.
Apple believes that users of iOS devices, such as the iPad, iPod and iPhone are breaking the law by jailbreaking and unlocking their devices. Apple’s developers have repeatedly employed updates to subsequent versions of their iOS to repair jailbroken versions of the iOS devices and make it more difficult for a user to unlock the newer version. Apple also restricts users from downloading and installing any applications from third parties of which Apple has not approved for use on their devices.
A person would typically jailbreak an iOS device to use applications and other programs they normally would not have access to because of the tight restrictions placed on the device by Apple. Apple also claims that jailbreaking the iOS on any device will subject it to viruses and other problems, not to mention, to protect their business model. Nevertheless, jailbreaking is legal.
The Real Problem with the Ruling
The real reason that Apple disallows jailbreaking and “tampering” with their devices is they would lose more revenue then they already do. As stated in Apple’s response to the questions posed by the FCC in 2009, Apple states that, “Apple also is at risk of direct monetary harm…” Legally allowing a person to jailbreak a device would increase the chance of users doing so, which would cause Apple to lose even more money than they have since the first App Store app was sold.
More to the point is that Apple receives 30 percent of all app sales including those for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. A report by CNN Money dated June 23 2010 shows that since the Apple App Store opened in 2008, Apple generated over $429 million in app sales for all devices combined. Simply put, Apple does not profit from sales made at third-party stores for applications downloaded and installed to jailbroken devices.
“Apple Terms of Service,” Apple
David Kravets, “US Declares iPhone Jailbreaking Legal Over Apple’s Objections,” Wired Magazine Online
“Apple Jailbreak Response,” Wired Magazine Online (PDF)
hilip Elmer-DeWitt, “App Store: 1 % of Apple’s Total Profit,” Fortune Tech