The U.S. Copyright Office has made amendments to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which now provides protection to users who wish to unlock their handsets.
This means smartphones such as the hugely popular iPhone can now be "jailbroken" without legal ramifications and used for installing apps that have not been approved by Apple.
It will also allow iPhone owners to freely change their network operator. The decision is bound to anger companies such as AT&T which continues to be the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the U.S.
A spokesperson for Apple, Natalie Kerris said: "Apple's goal has always been to ensure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience.
“This can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably."
The ruling has been hailed "a major victory" by Corynne McSherry of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital rights organisation that has long pushed for clarifications to the law.
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