Is jailbreaking a phone illegal?

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Jailbreaking a phone is a process that allows its users to bypass the phone’s operating system unlocking hidden RAM bytes and installing new features. When it comes to Apple’s iPhone, jailbreaking means you can install third party applications and fully exploit the phone’s capabilities. But, is it illegal? This is a question that raises many different opinions and explanations.

On one hand, there are people claiming that jailbreaking your phone is a totally legal action. As they say, you do not break any official law as there is no regulation forbidding jailbreaking. iPhone owners have the only jurisdiction over their phones and no one can deny that. They may want to throw it over the fifth floor to see in how many pieces it will break to. That is why it highly unlikely to see someone checking your iPhone if it is jaibroken or not.

Nevertheless, jailbreaking your phone means instant void of your warranty. Apple can easily say that hacking your phone is the reason you face problems with applications, video playback, call quality, internet access and so on. But there is always a solution! To avoid this you can save your phone settings using iTunes before jailbreaking and then restore it back to the default firmware making it eligible for warranty service.

Moreover, people claiming that jailbreaking is a legal action parallelize jailbreaking with the common peer-to-peer downloading software. Jailbreaking itself is not illegal but it can become illegal if you do not use it properly. For example, downloading third party applications just because Apple does not have the desired app is not illegal. But, if you use a third party application to download Mp3 tunes that are prohibited unless you pay for them, then jailbreaking becomes illegal. What matters is the way you use the software and not the software itself.

On the other hand, Apple has filed official reports claiming that jailbreaking is in any way illegal and a DMCA violation. Supporting their claims, Apple asserts that third party applications need a customized version of Apple’s OS software to run properly thus, muddling with Apple’s software code leads to infringing their copyrights. And you have accepted not to violate the terms of use or their copyright agreement once you purchased their product.

Additionally, as Apple claims, buying their product does not give you a total control over it; you are licensed to their OS software but that does not make you its owner. You can only act on it according to Apple’s terms of use and license that prohibits modifying, decrypting, copying, decompiling, reverse engineering of iPod operating system software and its updates. Jailbreaking is an instant violation of this agreement giving Apple the right to void your warranty or even file charges against you.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reacts in Apple’s claims saying that reverse engineering is a legal action when used to diverse software or its versions in order to make third party applications run properly. Since Apple does not provide a full access to its users, then, users in turn may use jailbreaking to restore full access and functionality. Furthermore, jailbreaking does not modify or erase any code but simply adds to it making it even more powerful. So, legally speaking, jailbreakers do not actually violate Apple’s terms of use.

At the moment, Apple’s filed complaints are just complaints and not legal actions. No jailbreakers will be prosecuted and it is highly unlikely for something like this to happen in the near future. So, if you have already purchased an iPhone or thinking of buying one, you have to know that you are the only responsible of accepting to jailbreak it or not with no further restrictions.


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