Get Out of Jail, Free Card

By , February 8, 2012 3:17 pm

by Philippe Cloutier

A recent phenomenon, thanks in part to Apple’s meteoric riser,  is the term jailbreaking that has seeped into news streams and daily conversations. It’s an odd term and Wikipedia offers a concise definition: “iOS jailbreaking, or simply jailbreaking, is the process of removing the limitations imposed by Apple on devices….jailbreaking is necessary if the user intends to run software not authorized by Apple.”  As of late jailbreaking has expanded to include any video-game console, tablet, or mobile-phone regardless of operating system. Comparing electronics to automobiles, running unapproved manufacturer software is akin to swapping out an engine for an off-make/model one or sawing off the roof for a do-it-yourself convertible.

The freedom to do what you will with a purchased product has led the Electronic Frontier Foundation in contacting the US Copyright Office, asking them to find jailbreaking legal and not in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Of particular relevance is that jailbreaking often assists the impaired and can actually improve systems in nearly any imagined use. It comes as no surprise that EFF is requesting letters to accompany their plea, for example:

Kevin McLeod is a deaf man who uses his Android phone — a Samsung Epic 4G — to assist him with communication, record-keeping, and time management. Like many deaf people, he uses video relay service (VRS) software on his phone to “work on a level playing field with hearing peers and have productive and meaningful careers.” He had these comments for the Copyright Office:

“I need a phone that can run VRS software through the day without having to recharge every other hour. The stock phone I received can’t do that. I had to upgrade to a more powerful battery. Then I installed an alternative version of the Android operating system called CleanGB that removes most of the carrier-installed software. This freed up memory and battery resources I need to stay connected.

We need the ability to modify our devices because manufacturers and carriers can’t possibly anticipate all the needs of their customers. We need flexibility to make the most of the terrific tools they build for us. I love the power and connectivity my phone gives me. I love that I can customize it to meet my unique needs.”

Sounds fairly reasonable that those who jailbreak should not immediately go to jail. It will be interesting to see if the U.S. Copyright Office responds and how.

One Response to “Get Out of Jail, Free Card”

  1. Crystal says:

    Great post, Philippe! Thanks for helping to keep us up-to-date on current trends and terminology. Jailbreaking – who would have thought!

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