The practice is colloquially referred to as ‘jailbreaking’. But, in spite of the criminal connotations of the term. It actually refers to unlocking an iPhone so it can be used on networks other than that of Apple’s official service provider.

In an submission to the U.S. Library of Congress (LoC), in opposition to an proposal  by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that would legitmize jailbreaking of iPhones and other cellphone operating platforms, Apple claims that ‘jailbreaking’ results in copyright infringement’.

Not only that, but…

[The proposal] will destroy the ‘chain of trust’ that Apple has carefully engineered into the product to protect users from serious functional problems that often result from unauthorized modifications to the device’s OS. It will potentially open up the iPhone to security holes and malware, as well as possible physical damage. Currently, Apple’s support department receives literally millions of reported instances of problems flowing from jailbroken phones. Apple’s support costs would be increased substantially as the exemption encourages thousands of additional users to jailbreak their phones.

If its LoC submission is successful, people who jailkbreak their iPhones could face penalties including fines up to (US)$2,500 and up to five years in jail for ‘per act of circumvention’ under the U.S. Copyright Act.

Meanwhile, the EFF is lobbying hard to have existing regulations limiting users’ control over their phones lifted:

Hundreds of thousands of cellphone owners have modified their phones to connect to the network or run the software of their choosing, and many more would like to. But the Digital Millennium Copyright Act poses a legal threat to phone users, even though the law was supposed to protect copyright owners and distributors of digital music and movies. This threat of litigation has driven consumers underground, stifling innovation and competition.

The LoC is not expected to rule on this issue anytime soon.

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