Indiefilmlaw's Blog
Ideas, Inspiration and Legal Resources for Artists, Filmmakers, Producers and Film Students

iPhone “Jailbreak” Ruling Bolster’s Technology Fair Use

On Monday, July 26, 2010, The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reported winning critical exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) anti-circumvention provisions. The decisions broaden legal protections for individuals who alter restriction on how they modify technology for personal use, whether it’s  apps for their cell phones or remixed videos. Though considered by many to be non-infringing or fair use activities, in the past, such individuals faced the threat of legal action.

In the case of Apple’s iPhone, the ruling now permits “jail-breaking” the iPhone OS. In other words, it is now legal to install unapproved third-party software applications or “Apps” as they are commonly known. According to he EFF, this creates new opportunities for innovators because technology entrepreneurs will know that there are customers for their inventions.

Not surprisingly, Apple was not pleased with the decision. Apple has maintained strict control over the Apps that are permitted in the App store. According to a company spokesperson, “Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone.” Apple warns that “jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience” of the iPhone and that it “can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably.”

In short the ruling is a victory for individuals, innovators and “fair use.” Cell phone owners have the right to run whatever legal programs they want on their devices. Copyright law has long held that making programs interoperable is fair use.


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