Legal void over Apple phone ‘jail-breaking’
BY MATTHEW CHOWN
WE all love our iPhones but hey are limited in what they can do by what apps you are able to install on to them. This is where a little trick called jailbreaking comes in handy.
Smart people saw the full potential of what we can do with our brilliant new smart phones but Apple’s operating system restricts them to apps that Apple approves.
Jailbraking lets us remove those limits by giving access to applications and extensions that are not available through the Apple store.
Tweaks that you can get through Cydia, a free form of app store, which is installed automatically on to any jail-broken device do a number of things but the ones most often selected are designed to improve operations on the phone.
Some examples of apps available on the Cydia are:
Signal: This claims to map nearby cell phone towers and provide detailed cellular information from the towers.
WhoIsCalling: This claims it will do an internet search for any information on the number calling or texting you.
Also made available through Cydia are emulators pieces of software that copy what an original computer system does but on another system. These emulators let you play Roms, which are copies of programs that used to run on the emulated system.
But what are the legal implications for these practices and applications. Recently in the United States a court case was brought up around the legality of jailbreaking the iPhone in which the United States Copyright Office came to the decision that the act of jailbreaking the iPhone was not illegal and was permitted under fair use laws.
In a release of the final decision the Copyright Office said, “The Register concludes that when one jailbreaks a smartphone in order to make the operating system on that phone interoperable with an independently created application that has not been approved by the maker of the smartphone or the maker of its operating system, the modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses.
“Case law and Congressional enactments reflect a judgment that interoperability is favored. The Register also finds that designating a class of works that would permit jailbreaking for purposes of interoperability will not adversely affect the market for or value of the copyrighted works to the copyright owner”.
But what does this mean for Australian consumers who whish to jail break their iPhone. Lawyer Graham Campbell said, “Australia hasn’t actually had any cases on this issue. Apple might say that altering its operating system code is copyright infringement imagine that the code is a story and you are rewriting it.
“It could also be said that the programs used to jailbreak the phone could be illegal as they get around Apple’s security . . . . Without an Australian case testing jailbreaking iPhones, and any legislation that seems any different than the US, should a case be made against an Australian the courts will look to the American case law and probably come to the same conclusion.”
Mr Campbell also said that Australia had anti monopolistic laws enforced by the ACCC and that forcing someone to keep the same programs and carrier was “monopolistic to the extreme”.
As for applications such as Signal and emulators and their Roms, Mr Campbell said, “A rom is basically a copy of the games code, which has then being given out to other people. This infringes on the owners copyright to give out the code themselves. But what if I already own the game? You don’t own that particular copy, that person had no right to give you that particular copy, even if you own a similar game.
“As for Signal this sounds like information that your phone must already have access to, but its just not showing you it … its like looking at your computers task manager to see the programs running on your computer, I can’t see how that would be illegal”.