US govt says it’s OK to jailbreak an iPhone

27 Jul 2010

The US Government has given the practice of jailbreaking devices like the iPhone in order to install third-party software or software not approved by the App Store onto their devices.

In a statement yesterday, James Billington, Librarian of Congress, said he was obliged every three years to update copyright law in the US and determine whether there are any classes of works subject to exemptions from the law’s prohibition against circumventing technology which controls access to a copyrighted work.

Among a number of steps, including DVD scrambling technology for education purposes and documentary making, e-books in order to allow read-allow functions and software programs impeded by obsolete dongle technology, Billington said wireless devices like the iPhone can be circumvented, too.

Jailbreaking is a popular activity among a certain breed of iPhone owners unhappy with the limitations imposed by Apple in terms of what software or applications they can use.

However, there is one proviso – Billington says its only legal if the jailbreaking is for the purpose of accessing a telecoms network and done with the network owner’s permission.

“Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable used wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telecommunications network, when circumvention is initiated by the owner of the copy of the computer program solely in order to connect to a wireless telecommunications network and access to the network is authorised by the operator of the network,” Billington said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years