Apple: iPhone Jailbreak hack violates the law

Apple says hack amounts to copyright infringement; EFF calls that stance absurd.

Hacking an iPhone is against the law, Apple has argued in comments filed with the U.S. Copyright Office.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a freedom-of-speech advocacy organization, this is the first public statement from Apple about its legal position on "jailbreaking," the term used to describe hacking an iPhone to install third-party applications not sold via Apple's own App Store.

In comments submitted to the Copyright Office, Apple said jailbreaking was a violation of copyright laws. "Current jailbreak techniques now in widespread use [utilizes] unauthorized modification to the copyrighted bootloader and OS, resulting in infringement of the copyright in those programs," Apple said. The iPhone's bootloader is a small program stored in the phone's non-volatile memory that, as its name implies, loads the device's operating system.

Jailbreaking an iPhone breaks the law, Apple said, because the process relies on pirated copies of the bootloader and operating system.

"Infringing reproductions of those works are created each time they are downloaded through Pwnage Tool and loaded onto the iPhone," said Apple, referring to one of the most popular jailbreaking tools. Created by a group calling themselves the "iPhone Dev Team," Pwnage Tool traces its history to September 2007, when the programmers unlocked the first-generation iPhone.

And iPhone hacking leads to even more piracy, Apple argued. "In addition, the jailbroken OS enabled pirated copies of Apple copyrighted content and other third-party content such as games and applications to play on the iPhone, resulting in further infringing uses of copyrighted works and diminished incentive to create those works in the first place."

Apple's written comments (download PDF) to the Copyright Office were in response to the EFF's request last year for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for cell phone jailbreaking. The EFF, and other technology companies that support it, including Firefox maker Mozilla Corp., want the Copyright Office to let users install applications not available through Apple's App Store on their iPhones without fear of copyright infringement penalties.

On Thursday Fred von Lohmann, the EFF senior staff attorney who is the organization's expert in intellectual property law, blasted Apple.

"Apple justifies [its position] by claiming that opening the iPhone to independently created applications will compromise safety, security, reliability, and swing the doors wide for those who want to run pirated software," said Lohmann in a entry posted to an EFF blog . "If this sounds like FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt], that's because it is."

Elsewhere, Lohmann called Apple's take on jailbreaking an "absurdity."

"One need only transpose Apple's arguments to the world of automobiles to recognize their absurdity," Lohmann said. "General Motors might tell us that, for our own safety, all servicing should be done by an authorized GM dealer using only genuine GM parts. But 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."

In the original EFF request (download PDF) for a DCMA exemption, Lohmann argued that "there is no copy-righted rationale for preventing iPhone owners from 'jailbreaking' their phones, enabling them to interoperate with applications lawfully obtained from a source of their own choosing."

For its part, Apple sees the EFF's moves as an attempt to tell it how to run its business. "EFF apparently desires to use the rulemaking process to alter Apple's business practices by negating DCMA protection for technologies that interfere with what the EFF seems to assume would be a more socially desirable business model that is more 'open'," the company said.

"Its arguments really amount to an attack on Apple's business choices," said Apple.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags hackiPhone

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?