Apple is likely angered over federal regulators' ruling that iPhone owners can legally "jailbreak" their smartphones, but one analyst suggests there's little the company can do to directly affect the ruling. Apple says jailbreaking an iPhone will void its warranty.
Apple is doubtlessly gnashing
its teeth after federal regulators ruled July 26 that iPhone owners can legally
"jailbreak" their smartphones and use them to run software not
authorized by the company-but Apple's opportunities for recourse may also be
limited, according to at least one analyst.
"A major part of how
Apple assures quality and profit is control over their ecosystem," Rob
Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group, wrote in a July 27 e-mail to
eWEEK. "They won't give up that control easily but they will likely find,
as Microsoft certainly did, that governments are more powerful than they are."
Enderle added: "While
they initially may try to get around rulings like this to reassert control they
will also probably find that governments aren't as stupid as many think and
eventually find another way to assure quality of profit." Depending on
Apple's appetite for action, "I don't expect this to be either a short
battle or an inexpensive one for the company."
The jailbreak ruling came in
response to a 2008
petition by the Electronic Frontier Foundation
, which asked for three
exemptions to the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act
: that noncommercial video creators be allowed to
rip clips from DVDs for "fair use remixes," that cell phone owners be
able to unlock their devices for use on "cellular networks of their
choosing," and that smartphone owners be able to jailbreak their devices
to "use applications of their choosing."
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
, passed in 1998, generally forbids users
to "avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure"
that controls access to a "work" such as a computer program.
As the overseer of the
Copyright Office, the Library of
Congress ruled in favor of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's petition
as well as three other exemptions covering video games, computer programs
protected by "dongles" and literary works distributed in ebook
In a statement
, the Library of
Congress outlined the "jailbreaking" and "other cellular
networks" exemptions as follows:
"(2) Computer programs
that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute software applications, where
circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability
of such applications, when they have been legally obtained, with computer
programs on the telephone handset
"(3) Computer programs,
in the form of firmware or software, that enable used wireless telephone
handsets to connect with 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 authorized by the operator of the network."
Technically, that language
could apply to smartphones other than the iPhone. Apple has been particularly
strident in its periodic arguments against jailbreaking: In response to
questions submitted by the Copyright Office in 2009, Apple argued that the
practice not only violated a license agreement between Apple and the iPhone
owner, but could lead to widespread destruction.
"Before partnering with
Apple to provide voice and data services, it was critical to AT&T that the
iPhone be secure against hacks that could allow malicious users, or even
well-intentioned users, to wreak havoc on the network," read
a statement issued by Apple at the time
. "Because jailbreaking makes
hacking of the BBP software much easier, jailbreaking affords an avenue for
hackers to accomplish a number of undesirable things on the network."
Among those undesirables:
having multiple smartphones with the same, artificially manipulated ECID
(Exclusive Chip Identification) number connected to a cell tower, potentially
leading to a catastrophic crash of tower software.
Apple insisted that, in order
for the Electronic Frontier Foundation's petition to be carried out, the iPhone's
firmware would need to be decrypted and modified; those modifications to the
bootloader and the OS would constitute a breach of the Internet Protocol
Service Level Agreement (IP SLA). Apple has subsequently taken steps to make
its iPhones more jailbreak-proof.
On July 26, an Apple
spokesperson told Cult of Mac
jailbreaking an iPhone would still void the warranty.
"Apple's goal has always
been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and
we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience," the
blog quoted as the spokesperson's official statement
. "As we've said
before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this
can violate the warranty and cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work