Apple: Jailbreaking iPhones is Illegal

In comments filed with the U.S. Copyright Office as part of the 2009 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) triennial rulemaking, jailbreaking the popular iPhone effectively is copyright infringement and a DMCA violation, Apple claims.

The Copyright Office comes together every three years to hear cases for exemption requests, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed an exemption request seeking exemption for consumers looking to jailbreak the iPhone so it can use independent software not sold through the App Store.

Apple fired back with comments essentially saying jailbreaking “involves infringing uses of the bootloader and OS, the copyrighted works that are protected by the TPMs being circumvented.”  The company also said “It will destroy the technological protection of Apple’s key copyrighted computer programs in the iPhone device itself and of copyrighted content owned by Apple that plays on the iPhone.”

Although many phone owners already jailbreak their iPhones, this marks the first time Apple publicly said jailbreaking is illegal.  The Cupertino-based company is working to try and stop the proliferation of jailbreaking, and isn’t necessarily looking to outright ban jailbreaking — something it knows it will not be able to realistically accomplish.

The EFF and Apple are now engaged in a back-and-forth war of words, with the EFF saying the following in a press release: 

If this sounds like FUD, that’s because it is.  One need only transpose Apple’s arguments to 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.

The non-profit group then says, “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.”

Despite fighting the “good fight” many iPhone owners would likely support, don’t be surprised to see if this particular exemption is denied by the Copyright Office in the near future.