Jailbreaking Could Make You A Criminal In 2012, Stop The Next SOPA Now

Jailbreaking Could Make You A Criminal In 2012, Stop The Next SOPA Now

The U.S. government declared the act of jailbreaking legal on July 26, 2010, encouraging hundreds of thousands of iOS users into hacking their devices, safe in the knowledge that their actions would incur no legal repercussions. The ruling certainly had a huge on the jailbreaking community, but the tables could be set to turn once again.

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), jailbreaking could become illegal again this year, but you can do your bit to prevent it.

The EFF reports:

“Smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles are powerful computers with lots of untapped potential. Yet many of these devices are set up to run only software that’s been approved by the manufacturer. Modifying a device to run independent software – known as jailbreaking – is important to programmers, enthusiasts, and users. But jailbreaking creates legal uncertainty. Some device manufacturers claim that jailbreaking violates Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which carries stiff penalties.”

So how can something that was deemed legal less than two years ago become a criminal act this year? Well, the ruling set by the Copyright Office back in 2010 is set to expire this year, and if we don’t convince it to maintain its stance on jailbreaking, it could become illegal again, allowing manufacturers like Apple to take legal action against those who perform software hacks on its devices.

Fortunately, you can do your bit to prevent this. The EFF has provided a link to the Copyright Office’s comment board, where it encourages you to provide your feedback and tell the Copyright Office why jailbreaking is so important. It also suggests some points you may wish to cover:

The Copyright Office needs to hear from people who depend on the ability to jailbreak to write, use, and/or tinker with independent software (from useful apps to essential security fixes) for smartphones, tablets, and game consoles…

Here are some questions you might want to address in your comments:

  1. Which jailbreaking exemption are you supporting—smartphones/tablets, video game consoles, or both?
  2. What’s your background (i.e., are you a developer, hobbyist, academic, independent researcher, user, etc.)?
  3. What device do you want to ensure you have the legal authority to jailbreak?
  4. Please explain why you want to jailbreak this device. What limitations do you face if you aren’t able to jailbreak it? Is there software you couldn’t run, computing capabilities you wouldn’t have, cool things you couldn’t do, etc.?
  5. If you’re a developer, did an online application store or console manufacturer reject your app or game? If so, what reasons did they give?
  6. Is there anything else you want to tell the Copyright Office?

The deadline for your feedback is 5PM ET on Friday, February 10.

Ensuring that the act of jailbreaking does not become illegal is imperative to maintaing a healthy jailbreak community. Without this freedom, iOS hackers such as Pod2g and his Dream Team, who recently released a jailbreak for Apple’s A5-powered devices, could face legal action against their work for the community.

And you could also be liable for hacking your own device.

Americans just narrowly avoided a terrible, anti-consumer law in SOPA. Let’s not make the same mistake by letting the jailbreak exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act lapse.

  • prof_peabody

    Actually it’s not currently legal to jailbreak now.  It’s only legal if you do it for personal, legal reasons.  

    Jailbreaking so you can go to a repository of “cracked” Apps for instance is still 100% illegal.
    Jailbreaking so you can use Siri on a device Apple denies its use on is also still 100% illegal

    These are crimes, and Cult of Mac’s insistence on sending their readers to such sites and promoting such hacks and uses is aiding and abetting a criminal offence in the USA.  

    We all know that the cops are not going to come knocking on your door and you probably won’t get arrested, but if you people had any guts, morals, common sense, or feeling for your fellow humans you would stop promoting these illegal activities.  

    What’s next?  Cult of Mac’s guide to looting?

  • Karl

    Just because it is written into law doesn’t make it right or moral or even common sense. 

    I believe there is a fine line that lawmakers have to walk between companies over reaching and people taking advantage.

    But at the end of the day, I believe that if I purchase any product and modify it so that it is able to do what I want to do for my own personal enjoyment then there shouldn’t be any legal issues.

    For example, if I hack my iPhone to be able to hook up to my old Nintendo game console and run the games I have previously owned. Then piss off if the law says its wrong.

    Now if I don’t own the old Nintendo games or console and have to go out and steal them… of course that is wrong.

  • Donald Annis

    Don’t you have something better to do, it seems you love trolling CoM.
    CoM is a news site, show me where they host illegal files? Are you saying that if a news site posts on something illegal, they are involved? Tell that to every news site on the internet that posts regarding activities.

    Yeah, look how much jail breaking has hurt apple on their record 46 billion quarter.

    And last time I checked, it IS legal to jailbreak now, don’t lie to yourself. :)

  • Ed_Kel

    I hate to admit it, but this time I have to agree. There are a slew of apps in the jailbreaking community that enable you to do things in which are illegal. Take MiWi for example, or the variety of apps that specifically control what data and usage details your carrier can and can’t see. Obviously a breech of contract – or illegal. Jailbreaking your device is a gateway and should be categorized on the same fine line that torrent sites are; the process and/or jailbreaking is not illegal, but things you can do with a jailbroken device are.

  • Ed_Kel

    Willing to take that same stance against apps like MiWi?

  • KillianBell

    The initial process of jailbreaking a device is legal, and the majority of users do it to customize their device, which is also legal. While some may use it to download “cracked” apps, this is not something we endorse, or “promote” within this article. Your suggestion that we are “aiding and abetting a criminal offense” is rubbish.

    That’s like slamming us for promoting DVD piracy because we wrote an article about a new DVD burner for the Mac, or a piece of DVD burning software.

    We are not “promoting these illegal activities,” we are promoting the process of jailbreaking. Which, again, is legal.

  • CaveMan5464

    I know you’re sooooo smart; but Jailbreaking is perfectly legal… The library of Congress deemed it perfectly legal. Here is a link if you would like to do some research before talking next time. www loc.gov/today/pr/2010/10-169.h…. Yes, installing cracked apps is stealing and is illegal. There are thousands of reasons to jailbreak besides stealing. COM is not promoting any such activity.

    Also, just so you are aware, porting Siri is also perfectly legal if you already own a iPhone4s, if not, then yes that is also illegal.

    Bottom line, stop trying to sell the BS that jailbreaking is against the law. You sir are an asshat.

  • Nellie

    my best friend’s sister-in-law makes $86 every hour on the computer. She has been fired from work for 7 months but last month her income was $7704 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here LazyCash4.com

  • Ed_Kel

    What about the article “Jailbreaking your iPhone 4S or iPad 2? Here are the top ten Cydia apps to try first” where MiWi is one of CoM “apps to try first”? Here’s a couple sentences from the article…

    “MyWi may seem expensive, but if you want to tether your iPhone or iPad, it sure beats the $20+ a month your carrier wants to charge you to turn on the same functionality. MyWi’s just a hell of an app, allowing you to tether your iPhone or iPad via USB cable to your computer to access the Internet, or even set it up as a mobile WiFi router.” – John Brownlee

    Now we all know that using MiWi is a breech of contract (illegal) and CoM, from what I can see, is in fact promoting the app. Do you, Mr. Bell, still want to take the stance you stated: “We are not “promoting these illegal activities,””?

  • MacGoo

    What’s next? I think you know what’s next…another CoM T-shirt blowout! *sob*

  • Tim Pease

    You must work for one of the sleazy carriers.

    A tethering fee would be illegal if the FCC/government would take a stand against the carriers.  I’m not going to fork over an additional $20/month for extra bandwidth I’ll never use.  I should be able to use the 2GB I pay for any way I choose.  AT&T has never contacted me about my ‘illegal’ tethering.

    Tell me this, oh holier than thou: Do you EVER travel over the speed limit while driving?  And be honest now.  Isn’t THAT illegal too?

  • joewaylo

    Jailbreaking is not illegal, however where you download is illegal.
    Cydia is a host to many materials not approved by Apple. Most of which are copyrighted but sold by their proper developers. 

    However, several users have used “Source” locations and downloaded illegal material. Material distributed for free and the money not given to the owners. These “Source” locations are pirated material, which is a violation of SOPA.

  • Ed_Kel

    Oh god. Of course someone would turn this into a jab at carriers. I thought I made my point rather clear. Educate yourself, then come back and read my comment again.

    Idiot.

  • Ed_Kel

    Oh god. Of course someone would turn this into a jab at carriers. I thought I made my point rather clear. Educate yourself, then come back and read my comment again.

    Idiot.

  • iDaBoss

    “Actually it’s not currently legal to jailbreak now.  It’s only legal if you do it for personal, legal reasons.” *facepalm*

  • iDaBoss

    probably, considering miwi is the most common example. the carriers charge you for a built in feature of the phone that they lock down.

  • Ed_Kel

    Doesn’t change the fact.

  • iDaBoss

    It doesn’t change the fact that it is a violation of the terms of your contract? Yes, I think we’ve realized that.

  • iDaBoss

    Also to note, violating your cell phone contract is not illegal. It just means that they don’t have to provide you service, or they might push you into a tethering plan.

  • Ed_Kel

    It. is. a. breech. of. contract. smh
    Just because something is illegal doesn’t mean it requires legal ramifications.

  • Ed_Kel

    Why did you even reply with this redundant comment? Superiority complex?

  • iDaBoss

    But there is a difference between breaking the law and breaking a contract with a service provider. Jailbreaking is like opening up electronics for self service and losing your warranty, which isn’t “illegal activity” but is a risk you take that changes the legal obligations of your service provider.

  • iDaBoss

    Prof. Peabody states his opinions. Karl responds with his opinions. You ask a question. I answer that question. You respond with inane statement of the obvious that diverges from the thread. I point it out. You ask why I point it out. Because I can.

  • CharliK

    Outside of the issue of stealing apps, I don’t object to jail breaking being legal. So long as companies aren’t forced to support equipment that has been jailbroken. If you choose to tamper you should have to do it at your own risk. You screw up your $600 iPhone or whatever, too bad. 

  • Mike Rathjen

    It’s currently not legal to drive now. Unless you are driving in a legal manner.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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