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Is legalising iPhone jailbreaking a threat to Apple?

Is legalising iPhone jailbreaking a threat to Apple?

The U.S. Copyright Office made exemptions to the country’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which now basically protects anyone that unlocks their smartphones to install third-party applications and change network providers.

One of the most obvious affected smartphones from this ruling is Apple’s hugely popular iPhone, which has been a regular victim of ‘jailbreaking.’

In unsurprising fashion, the Cupertino giant played down the ruling.

It stated: "Apple's goal has always been to ensure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhones.

“We know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience.”

It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to figure out what Apple is really saying is, ‘look, we just don’t want to lose our share of app revenues because of you pirates’.

iphone 4 front on side on

Interestingly enough, while Apple did petition against the exemptions, they have never taken legal action against anyone for jailbreaking iPhones, which is surprising since it’s no secret the company has been overwhelmingly protective of its products over the years.

Its draconian censorship policies on the App Store have been long criticised by free-speech evangelists, which is one of the main reasons behind disgruntled users jailbreaking their iPhones to install apps that were rejected or purged from the store.

Then again, while choice and free speech is all well and good, Apple is still a business that relies on the revenue it collects from its App Store.

Piracy is very much a threat to digital distribution of any form. For me, Apple is well within its rights to want to protect its business and those of its partners.

You’d think that if a company as successful as Apple saw a genuine benefit to being more open, it would have done it a long time ago. But clearly they think the loss of any short-term profit over the long-term control of its products is far preferable.

For better or worse, at least they are being consistent this way and leaving room to become less stringent on their policies in the future.

In the end, will this ruling make a huge dent on Apple’s revenue purse? That’s something time will tell when Apple reveals its fiscal reports next year.

The potential loss of revenue, however, is not the only factor here.

Apple may not be entirely bluffing in saying jailbreak could degrade the experience for iPhone owners.

Charlie Miller, formerly with the National Security Agency (NSA) and now analyst for Baltimore’s Independent Security Evaluators (ISE), thinks that jailbroken iPhone owners leave themselves open to attacks that an unaltered handset would easily deflect.

Mr Miller, who himself famously hacked the original iPhone, said: "Jailbroken iPhones don't obey the security model of the iPhone.

"The whole point of jailbreaking is to break the security model."

iphone 4

That being said, it is unlikely that those who do jailbreak their iPhones necessarily concern themselves with the potential security vulnerabilities, since jailbreaking itself carries the risk of rendering the device into an expensive doorstopper if not done correctly. Not to mention the fact it voids their warranty.

So it is doubtful that if someone really wanted to jailbreak their iPhone for the purpose of installing pirated and unauthorised apps, they would have waited for a court ruling to let them do it.

In my opinion, the ruling is probably more advantageous to those who wanted to unlock iPhones to switch carriers but feared repercussions from Apple and its exclusive partners.

As far as Apple is concerned, its App Store revenue may take a hit in the long run but it will still continue to dominate the app market in both revenue and numbers just for the fact it is leading and has a very successful business model in place.

Its closest competitor Google may be posting some impressive numbers for the Android platform, but has some way to go before it can even reach the very high standard Apple has set for itself.

To the average Joe, Apple still has arguably the best smartphone in the market and the best app store to go with it, and they vastly outnumber those that actually possess the technical knowledge of jailbreaking the smartphone.

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