How Apple and U.S. Congress limit iPhone users’ freedom

“In 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which makes it a felony to distribute products ‘primarily designed’ for circumventing copy-protection schemes like the one on the iPhone,” Timothy B. Lee writes for Forbes. “Breaking the law ‘willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage’ can get you a half-million dollar fine and five years in prison.”

“The Copyright Office has the power to grant exceptions to some parts of the DMCA, and it has ruled that jailbreaking phones is legal. However, it does not have the power to grant exceptions for the prohibition on circumvention devices,” Lee writes. “So you’re allowed to jailbreak your iPhone, but anyone who provides you with software to help you do it is a potential felon… When Apple decided to lock down the iPhone, it was effectively invoking the force of criminal law against jailbreaking. That seems like a restriction on users’ freedom to me…”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Dear Apple: Whatever you do, please keep us locked in your crystal prison – May 31, 2012
EFF: ‘Apple’s Crystal Prison and the Future of Open Platforms’ – May 29, 2012


  1. It is not a restriction on users, because there is no restriction on a user jailbreaking a phone. It’s a restriction on developers who make jailbreaking tools and who mislead users into thinking that jailbreaking is safe.

  2. Apple didn’t push for the DMCA, the MPAA and the RIAA did. They didn’t and still don’t want consumers to circumvent protection against copying movie DVDs and music CDs. They, not Apple were the main proponents for this. Looks like someone wants to rewrite history.

  3. I don’t know. I jail-broke my iPhone when I first got it, but the software on Cydia was of Android-quality, so I just let it go back at the next update. I don’t feel that jail-breaking offers me any value, but others obviously feel differently.

    1. There’s a lot of junk on Cydia, but there are some really great tweaks. SBSettings is one. Others may have to do with specialized needs. For example, the only way to export my address book with my car stereo is through Bluetooth, but that requires a tweak.

      I have so many apps, that they don’t fit in folders that make sense for them (such as Games, where unjailbroken, I’d have Games 1, Games 2, etc…), but jailbroken I can have unlimited items in a folder.

      Other things are nice, like having the iPhone be unlocked when I’m at any of my homes (it recognized the Wifi network and automatically unlocks so you don’t have to enter the pin when your iPhone is sitting right next to you in bed).

      There have also been times when there have been sync issues with the iPhone, and I’ve been able to retrieve files via SSH. One time in particular, I save a really important audio recording this way.

      There are so many little tweaks, it’s hard to keep track of, but I definitely do notice them when they’re gone.

      My advice to anyone considering jailbreaking is to look at some of the top-reasons lists, and featured items within Cydia.

      It’s definitely not for everyone.

  4. Apple actually approves of jailbreaking, do you guys really think they come up with all the ideas on they’re own? All these developers of these tweaks are just pawns in apples free payroll, bigboss develops a tweak, it catches apples eyes then before you know it it’s incorporated in they’re next iOS updates, multitasking and backgrounding was on iPhone before apple released it.

    1. Wow,

      You seriously think Apple got the “idea” for multitasking and backgrounding on the iPhone from BigBoss?

      Ok, first of all, multitasking and backgrounding were already present in iOS on day one. Apple intentionally limited it to their own apps so that 3rd party apps wouldn’t be running in the background draining resources and killing battery life.

      By jailbreaking, users were able to disable this restriction and multitask with 3rd party apps, however this required/requires manually managing all running apps so they don’t drain resources.

      Apple, again on their own, developed smart multitasking which is a much better approach. The jailbreak community had nothing to do with it.

      I’ve jailbroken every iOS device as soon as a jailbreak was available. I have a ton of apps and tweaks from Cydia and browse through them almost every day as I also check the Apple app store.

      While there are many innovative things to be found through Cydia, and tweaks you can do via SSH, I’m at a loss for anything developed in the jailbreaking community that Apple directly “copied”.

      There are plenty of things that were available first, or may even be better today via jailbreak, such as folders, but things like that are obvious developments that Apple not only didn’t directly copy, but already had prior artwork in Mac OS.

      My take on Apple’s “approving” of jailbreaking is that they probably don’t, as shown by their failed legal attempt to have it blocked. However, they don’t actively prohibit it physically, because doing so would piss off some of their loyalist customers (by bricking devices). Instead, they do patch any holes they can which are used to jailbreak, although this may be deceiving since even if they did approve of jailbreaking, it would be in their interest to patch the holes.

      In other words, we don’t know for sure if Apple really secretly approves or actually disapproves of jailbreaking, but they don’t seem to be reacting strongly in either case.

    2. exactly.
      Maybe they don’t “approve” of jailbreaking.. But so many of the features of iOS 3-5 are directly from the jailbreak community. Can’t deny that.

      1. “so many of the features of iOS 3-5 are directly from the jailbreak community”

        Like what exactly? What came from the jailbreaking community that Apple directly copied? Like the OP’s example of multitasking, I don’t see anything from the jailbreaking community that Apple smacked themselves in the head pondering why they hadn’t thought of that. And much like multitasking was already there (or in Mac OS) to begin with.

  5. The DMCA is bad law, extremely bad law. It is an example of what I call “creeping totalitarianism.”

    Little bit by little bit, law after law after law, those who think they know best legislate away the freedoms of the rest of us and we sit back and accept it.

    People die to secure our freedoms. That is the only currency with which you can purchase freedom, human lives, and we hand it over to blithering imbeciles (in the best case) or corrupt duplicitous swine in the worst, and they sell it, little bit by little bit, to fill their campaign coffers.

    Law after law, unintended consequence after unintended consequence, minute aspects of our lives suddenly become the purview of The State, at the behest of the statists. One day it is illegal for me to hack my phone and tell you how I did it, the next day it’s illegal to sell me an extra large soda.

    Why? Because someone else thinks they know best how we should all live. They think they know better. They believe they know what is appropriate for you, me, and 315 million other people. They think they know what is right for the people of the rest of the world too and do their best to extend their ideas there.

    At the beginning of 2012, 40,000 new laws took effect in the United States. Does anyone really believe we needed 40,000 new laws to control everything from what light bulbs are legal to what days of the week we are allowed to consume alcohol, to who we are allowed to marry and so on. 40,000 new laws and not a single one seeks to protect us, and our INDIVIDUAL rights from the law makers. 40,000 new laws generally created by the collective to squash the individual. The smallest minority of all.

    And we just take it, no matter how horrendous they may be. From the Patriot Act (created by the now Vice President of the United States, signed by the previous President) to the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the current President, to the DMCA, to CISPA and SOPA and PIPA, we just take it, even though we see it happening, and we know who is behind it.

    One morning we will wake up, and those who legislate us, and regulate us, and ticket, tax, fine, penalize, and otherwise seek to turn life into one big punitive experience will have given us the world we thought we stood against. We will step out into the street and be asked to present our papers, to supply proof that we’ve done our morning exercise, before we go off to our government jobs, in our state specified, state colored, autonomous vehicles.

    The little laws seem like nothing now. Just stay tuned.

    “… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws….”

    (I’m still celebrating memorial day.) DMCA struck a nerve.

    1. When a good man cannot avoid becoming a criminal due to unjust laws, he loses respect for the government which makes those laws, thus withdrawing his consent to be governed. And according to Augustine (and quoted by MLKjr), “An unjust law is no law at all.”

    2. +1
      “In a state-run society the government promises you security. But it’s a false promise predicated on the idea that the opposite of security is risk. Nothing could be further from the truth. The opposite of security is insecurity, and the only way to overcome insecurity is to take risks. The gentle government that promises to hold your hand as you cross the street refuses to let go on the other side”. ~Theodore Forstmann

    3. I agree with a bunch, but not all of what you say and am tired of the nanny state (yes, Mayor for Life Bloomberg, I’m talking about you), the corporate state (tax welfare for corporations and privatization of everything), the police state (the militarization of the police has gone wayyyyy past the line), the national security state (hello NSA, et al.) and all the rest.

      The problem is that it is not all the government.

      We have companies demanding passwords and logins to online sites of employees for activity done away from work off the clock on personal devices connected to private ISP accounts- or else- without due process.

      We have companies demanding tribute in the form of tax exemptions, public funded worker training, public funded site acquisition and improvement, zoning waivers and all the rest just to come and set up a business. Not a few- but legions- depriving communities of revenue which is then shifted to the residential tax base and small enterprise. And states, counties and cities are lining up like lemmings to fellate these economic hit men.

      It’s time to regroup, reorganize and evolve.

      I am a liberal, but I believe in freedom to the maximum extent practical. I believe in free enterprise that is organized and regulated in the public interest and accountable to the people through courts and the law. I believe in a meritocracy that is founded upon equal access to education so that no child should be held back because of what his/her parents are or are not.

      I also hold to the claim that Habeas Corpus is not open to negotiation, legislation, equivocation, mitigation, selective interpretation or nullification. Those public servants responsible for the trampling of Habeas Corpus under the Bush Administration should be charged with treason and perp walked in broad daylight to a trial by a jury of those wronged by a thug government. The same is true for those who went along or enabled it.

  6. Life = Choice.

    Apple chose to keep all the iOS devices they invented safe from security attacks. Deal with it.

    Thank you Apple.

    If you choose to remove that security, that’s YOUR problem. Apple does NOT have to deal with it. You do. If you don’t like it, go buy some POS elsewhere.

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