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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Jailbreaking legal, clients unfazed

Once you buy a smart phone, it is yours. There is no reason not to download any legally purchased applications or use that phone with a different carrier. Manufacturers should have no right to completely control how consumers use their devices.

Thanks to a new ruling passed by the Copyright Office, it is now legal for owners to use their “wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications” by circumventing the built-in security measures designed by the manufacturer. It is also legal to use wireless telephone handsets on other cell phone carriers, as long as the owner makes that change himself. Tech savvy friends, competing cell phone carriers and outside companies cannot jailbreak your phone for you; the jailbreak has to be commercial and nonprofit.

It may not sound like a big deal, but for owners of iPhones it is. Since the first generation of the iPhone, users have been altering the phones to allow them to use applications not sold through Apple’s App Store. Many have also unlocked their phones in order to keep their existing provider instead of AT&T.

Until last week, iPhone owners could only legally use AT&T and applications purchased through Apple’s iTunes. There is no reason Apple should be able to force that much control.

Admittedly, this ruling is unlikely to change anything significant right away. There will be no surge of current smart phone owners jailbreaking their devices, since most people who want to do so already have. The people who have already jailbroken their phones will not have to deal with legal action. It also means that people who buy smart phones in the future will not have to be limited to just the phones their cell phone company offers. Every smart phone on the market that is applicable to being unlocked is open to legal jailbreaking.

Despite the fact that it is legal, jail breaking still voids the iPhone’s warranty and the warranties of many other smart phones. Because of this undeniable downside, it is unlikely that more than a small, technologically-savvy fraction of smart phone users will take immediate advantage of the new ruling. As time passes and the computer-wise smart phone users refine the jailbreaking process into something simple, elegant and basic, there is a good chance that many smart phone users will leave their phones untouched.

Casey Goodwin is a mechanical engineering sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]

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