Unlocking Apple’s iPhone: Legal or not?

“The legal status of unlocking an Apple iPhone is somewhat murky, as the main law in this area is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which forbids the circumvention of copy-protection technology. But last year the copyright office created an exemption ‘for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network,'” Richard Koman reports for NewsFactor.

“The battle of the iPhone hackers erupted over the weekend, after teenager George Holz released a YouTube video showing his iPhone connecting to the T-Mobile network. Apple’s iPhones come locked so they only operate with AT&T’s network,” Koman reports.

“Following Holz’s announcement on Friday, several other groups announced software hacks [including] iPhoneSimFree [and iPhoneUnlocking who intended to sell the software],” Koman reports.

The law “clearly protects people like Holz, who has said his sole interest in the hacking project was to be able to use his iPhone on his family’s T-Mobile service. But the DMCA might not protect groups such as iPhoneSimFree and iPhoneUnlocking,” Koman reports.

Full article here.


  1. If ATT gave out unlock codes to iPhone users as they do for other phones, this would not be a problem.

    For Business travelers, ATT Roaming rates are extremely high even with their “World Traveler” plan.

    One thing I noticed is that when you first use the iPhone after you wake up, it accesses the EDGE network first and stars downloading, before it switches to a Wifi network.

    There appears no way to turn Edge off like you can turn WiFi off when you are traveling. You can be hit with a huge data bill when outside the US without knowing it.

  2. Don’t forget that reverse engineering (something essential to all methods so far) is probably included in the agreement of all who activate their phones. Breaking that contract is breaking the law.

  3. @Illegal

    It’s a breach of contract, not against the law. Never heard of a law that covers private contracts. I doubt the Feds would show up at your door if you broke a EULA.

    Think about it!

  4. Everything is eventually about money…so why doesn’t Apple just allow other networks to join the party? They’ll get more customers and therefore more money.

    Just imagine how many people would buy iPhones if it was available to Verizon and T-Mobile! Steve’s precious stock numbers would shoot through the roof.

  5. @ M@c,

    Yes, it is all about money. That’s why Apple would rather not have the iPhone hacked. It would increase sales, but it would eliminate the shared revenue that they are getting from AT&T for iPhone users. That can add up to a significant amount.

  6. @ M@c

    Because Apple had to sign an exclusive contract with AT&T in order to get them to make the network modifications that make the iPhone experience what it is (one of those things is voicemail).

  7. If I pay $600 for an iPhone, I should be able to strap it to my forehead if I want to. The idea that the seller can severely restrict what you do with an item of merchandise when you leave the store is absurd.

  8. Steve was never concerned about stock, that was partly what has held Apple (AAPL) back, he has little regard for the merchants and dissed The Street one time in an interview, I bet that pissed them.

    The Street thinks they know best and they control the purse strings of the avaricious, often they are care about control than profit (you need to understand the VERY BIG picture). Most of The Street profits from the number of transactions rather than stock value gains, that’s the shareholders, volatility hence high volumes of stock trades is good for the merchants (bad for investors).

    Some Street members are however coming to realize that a company that serves it’s customers first can be a good company for investors. Maybe not as good as volatile companies whose shareholders are in for the quick profit and trade a lot and hence produce a lot of commissions.

    The limiting of the market to at&t is more complex, the service providers needed to upgrade their systems to provide the customer service Apple was looking for. Maybe the others (I understand at&t were second choice) were looking at their short term downturn in profits whilst they invested. Battery life was also an issue in selecting networks, it was a very complicated judgment.

    iPhone has achieved an unparalleled satisfaction rating, it seems to me Apple got it just about right. New features etc will be added as and when possible which includes other service providers catering for a better service for their customers.

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