Home > Phone > iPhone Jailbreak – is it legal or Illegal ?

iPhone Jailbreak – is it legal or Illegal ?

December 24th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

When you buy iPhone from Apple, you are apparently married to it and there is no way you can divorce, without breaking Apple’s terms and conditions. AT & T is the official carrier of the Apple iPhone and Apple does not allow you to change carrier – at least it does not wishes to. But this is not the only reason, Apple does not want to you jailbreak your iPhone. The Applications in the official iPhone can only be downloaded only from the official Apple Store, many of them are not free. Apple therefore, makes money on many fronts – it makes money when it sells you the iPhone hardware, it makes money from AT & T by bringing customers for its network, it makes money when the Apple iPhone users buy the Applications from its store.

There are two terms you need to have clarity – one is the unlocking and other is jailbreaking. By the term, unlocking, we, casually mean ability to switch carriers. It is a very old term, prior to the iPhone launch in 2007, when many carriers were giving away phone free in return for a 1 year or 2 year contract from the carrier. It was a win win situation for the customers, the carrier and the mobile phone manufacturer. At the end of the contract, however, the phone was rendered useless because it was “locked” to the carrier. Usually the unlocking is a simpler procedure for individual phones and most of them needed to be hooked up to USB cable and some simple file update is required. In some cases the carrier will unlock the phone if you request them.

With the iPhone the situation is slightly more complicated. You not only want to “unlock” it, but also want the ability to download the applications and run on it. And for this reason, Apple coined the term “Jail breaking”. In iPhone lingo when we talk about jailbreak, in includes the unlocking – meaning, you can use carriers other than AT & T for services. Jailbreaking involves modification in the baseband and modification in the operating system. While jailbreaking operating system allows you the access to to its root and file system, it is the baseband modification, that will give you ability to switch carrier. There are different procedures for different versions of operating system and baseband.

The question – that many people seem to be asking is – is it legal if I jailbreak an iPhone. If you want a pure legal one word answer – then the answer is No. And the reason is simple – when you buy an Apple iPhone – you agree to the terms and condition of the Apple which prevents any modification in the hardware or the software on the iPhone. By jaibreaking the iPhone, you break the terms and condition that you agreed upon and Apple can haul you to court, if it wishes to. Apple may sue any of the groups for jailbreaking the iPhone and it can take them to the court just because the terms were breached.

So far there are millions of iPhone jailbroken and Apple has not takes a single action against any of these. The reason is – it not a financially viable model for Apple to go to a individual user and sue him. Individual users, in many cases are not the jailbreakers – they purchase the jailbroken iPhone from ebay, craigslist or they get them jailbroken from malls. Apple may be tempted to sue the slightly bigger fishes – for example, those claiming to offer the jailbreaking service. The catch is, the person should be the “original buyer”, “caught”, jailbreaking the iPhone. Apple has never done that. The financial equation does not fit in Apple’s model to go after the individual or small group of hackers for that matter and sue them.

Assume that Microsoft would have jailbroken the iPhone and listed the jailbreaking procedure on its website. Apple’s task would have been easier. It could, just net one big fish and would have been done.

Apple, however, intended to drag users for the DMCA regulation. According to the broad rules of DMCA, you can not modify a copyrighted sofware or a program and use it for your benefit. Apple’s contention was -by modifying the Apple software in the iPhone for jailbreaking purpose, and reusing it, jailbreakers are violating the DMCA copyright rules. However, Apple lost the case when Library of Congress ruled against itt. The most obvious reason it lost the case was the fact that the DMCA rules can not be utilized to allow monopolising the business especially disallowing the use of another carrier, when the person paid for the hardware. The lost case was a big blow for the Apple which could have used the legal result to shut down all the online jailbreaking discussions and downloads. All it would have to do was send the notifications to the hosts asking them to shut down apple jailbreaking software download.

Every three years Librarian of Congress determines – whether there are any classes of works that will be subject to exemptions from the statute’s prohibition against circumvention of technology that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work.

Here is the section 2 out of the six classes of works that are exempt from according to the statement in the Librarian of congress statement.

(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 lawfully obtained, with computer programs on the telephone handset.

What it obviously means is that the – It is legally ok to unlock an iPhone or any phone for that matter for the purpose of switching to any other carrier. Starred reviews, strongly suggest readers to read the original text of this regulation.

Apple still has the option of suing individuals who break the terms and conditions. The DMCA path has however, been shut down for Apple. As someone puts it, the one barrel from a two barrel gun has been removed.

Apple recently removed the API that checks if the iPhone has been jailbroken, suggesting that it is no more pursuing the path of strictly not allowing jailbreaking. The recent ascent of the open source Android phones are expected to dent in the sales of the iPhone. And if Apple does not mend its way, the super cool applications from free Android community could start eating up Apple. Steve Jobs are you listening.


– According to Library of Congress it is perfectly legal to unlock a phone for the purpose of switching the carrier. There no copyright violation.

– Jailbreaking a phone voids the warranty of the phone, so you will not be able to send a broken phone to Apple for replacement or fixing.

– Apple still gets you to sign its terms and condition when you buy new phone from its store, and can drag you to court if it wishes to – but its case is weak after the Library of Congress stand on the “fair use” of the phone.

– It is not financially viable for Apple to go after individual with no meaningful gain in suing individual users.

Chronology of Major Events in the history of iPhone jailbreaking

July 10, 2007 – First Jailbreaking method released

Feb 200-8 – Italian Hacker Zibri finds and exploit that forms the basis of all future jailbreak method.

Jan 2009 – iPhone Dev team commences work on iPod Touch 2G jailbreak.

March 17, 2009 – Apple announces iOS 3.0 release

June 2009 – Three months after iOS 3.0 is released, iPhone Dev Team releases Pwnage Tool 3.0 and redsn0w 0.7.2 to jail break iOS 3.0

September 2009 – Apple releases iOS 3.1 disabling the jailbreaking

October 2009 (?) –iPhone Dev Team releases jailbreak updated Pwnage Tool and redsn0w version to jailbreak iOS 3.1 ( except iPod Touch 3G)

October 11, 2009 – George Hotz’s releases blackra1n to jailbreak iPod Touch 3G.

February 2010- Apple releases iOS 3.1.3 again blocking jail breaking. However, iPhone, iTouch models cou*++ld be downgraded ( and then could be jailbroken with the methods available). Users with iPhone 3GS and iPod Touch 3G were required to have their SHSH blobs saved to be able to jailbreak the iPhone.

June 21 2010 – Apple releases iOS4. Few hours later iPhone Dev Team releases redsn0w, and few days later updated versions of Pwnage Tool and Snowbreeze . These worked on the iPhone 3G/S and second generation iPod Touch having iOS4. No jailbreak available for the iPhone 4.

July 11, 2010 – Library of Congress explicitly states that unlocking a phone for switching the carrier is perfectly legal and does not violate DMCA regulations. It meant that Apple could no more sue users for jailbreaking their phones for switching carriers.

August 1, 2010 – Comex releases the first public method for jailbreak for the iPhone 4 called JailbreakMe 2.0.

September 23, 2010 -iH8sn0w releases tethered jailbreak sn0wbreeze 2 the first jailbreak for iOS 4.1

October 20, 2010 – iPhone Dev Team releases PwnageTool 4.1 for jailbreaking iPhone 3G, 3GS, and iPhone 4, iPod touch 3G and 4G, the iPad, and the Apple TV 2G running on iOS 4.1 (for iPad, version 3.2.2).

November 1, 2010 – the iPhone Dev Team releases redsn0w 0.9.6b2 to jailbreak the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4,iPod touch 2G, iPod touch 3G, iPod touch 4G, iPad, and the Apple TV running on version 4.1 or 3.2.2 (iPad).+

Categories: Phone Tags: ,
  1. April 14th, 2012 at 21:31 | #1

    Any idea when this will be available for windows?

  2. August 7th, 2013 at 19:52 | #2

    This can be a terrific blog site, thank you for this. I needed to yahoo designed for quite a few time
    to discover this specific space.
    My spouse and i not like whenever whenever I really yahoo and google intended for article content in order to read
    through I personally commonly uncover worthless articles and reviews
    in addition to a great deal spam.
    Everyone naturally just take care connected with the entire trash
    as well as retain your internet site clear as well as high quality.
    Will you possess rules for my own blog site?