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					iPhone 'Jailbreaking' Rampant... But Is It Illegal? ----------------------------------------------------------According to an article in The New York Times, both the use and supply of unauthorized applications for the iPhone and the iPod Touch have become rampant across the Internet. As you might imagine, Apple Computer doesn't like it. But is it illegal... or will Apple end up facing regulator scrutiny over whether its own conduct is anti-competitive? To use one of the growing number of non-approved iPhone or iPod Touch applications users must first 'jailbreak' their devices by downloading software that bypasses Apple's restrictions and allows them to load such thirdparty programs. Apple considers this to be illegal and in breach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This is basically because bypassing Apple's restrictions means unlawfully modifying Apple's copyrighted software. On the other hand, the 'jailbreakers' - including the users, makers and sellers of the uanapproved iPhone and iPod Touch applications - believe they should have the right to freely use and customize their phones as they wish. They also suggest that Apple's anti-jailbreaker stance may be motivated by a desire to reduce competition to its own App Store. Now, it looks like the United States Copyright Office will weigh in on the issue. Last year the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) requested the U.S. Copyright Office to recognize an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that would permit jailbreaking of iPhones and other devices. The EFF believes that consumers should be allowed to adapt software for their own personal use. Apple responded with its own legal filing, stating that 'jailbroken' iPhones depended on modifying Apple's operating software which constituted copyright infringement. Apple also said jailbreaking encouraged the piracy of approved iPhone applications,

which added to the company's expenses iPhone and iPod Touch devices.

and therefore to the cost of the

So why have unapproved iPhone and iPod Touch apps proliferated in the first place? One reason is the long, somewhat cumbersome process of getting an app into the iTunes App Store. I know a little about this - I've helped one company jump through the legal hoops involved, and am currently in the process of getting another app approved for inclusion in the App Store. I'm not personally worried about not getting our particular app in the store, but I can imagine some companies (perhaps with somewhat dubious apps) that may have little hope of getting their apps approved. This too - having a dubious app that either isn't approved or isn't likely to be approved is probably behind some developers' decisions not to go the official route. Meanwhile, iPhone owners who jailbreak their phones are, understandably, motivated by the desire to add custom features or functions to their devices that are not available from the App Store or other authorized channels. To facilitate both the demand and supply of unofficial apps, some distribution sites have emerged to allow people to provide or get thousands of third-party iPhone applications and modifications. While I can understand Apple's concerns about widespread distribution of unauthorized apps, and its legitimate objection to people infringing its copyright, I wonder if there's some truth in the argument that Apple's ultimate goal is to deny or limit competition with its App Store. Apparently New York University professor of economics, William H. Greene, believes most jailbreaking software is free and does not harm iPhone sales. Especially since some unofficial apps are those that Apple has rejected for inclusion in its store.

It will be interesting to see what the United States Copyright Office makes of all this. I suspect that regardless of the Copyright Office's decision, this issue won't go away. For one thing, the more dominant both the iPhone / iPod Touch platform and App store become, the more likely Apple will come under scrutiny by competition regulators... Source: Jenna Wortham, "Unofficial Software Incurs Apple's Wrath". - The New York Times, May 13, 2009 -


				
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