US: New government rule; Apple loses bit of its grip

According to new government rules announced on Monday, owners of the iPhone will be able to legally unlock their devices so they can run software applications that haven’t been approved by Apple Inc.

The Library of Congress, which has the power to assign exceptions to an important copyright law, said that it was legal to bypass technical measures that companies put on their product to protect their copyrighted material from the unauthorized use.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group, had asked for that exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow the so-called jailbreaking of iPhones and other devices. “This is a really important victory for iPhone owners,” said Corynne McSherry, a senior staff lawyer with the foundation. “People who want to tinker with their phones and move outside of the Applesphere now have the ability to legally do that.”

The issue has been a topic of debate between Apple, which says it has the right to regulate the software on its devices, and technically adept users who want to customize their phones as they see fit. In a legal filing last year with the United States Copyright Office, Apple appealed that altered phones violated on its copyrights because they used customized versions of Apple’s operating system. Apple also said that altering the phones encouraged the pirating of applications, exposed iPhones to security threats and taxed the company’s customer support staff.

Apple had not actively pursued any specific sites or developers that assist people in jailbreaking; however, it does use software upgrades to disable jailbroken phones, and this new government rules won’t put a stop on this, which means owners of such phones might not be able to take any advantage of software improvements, and they still run the risk of voiding their warranty.

Source: AP News.

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