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iPhone Jailbreaking Could Become Illegal in 2012

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A year and a half ago, smartphone owners were granted a rare win for consumer rights.

Much to the chagrin of carriers and manufacturers, the Library of Congress' Copyright Office ruled that jailbreaking or rooting iPhone (AAPL), Android (GOOG), BlackBerry (RIMM), and Windows Phone (MSFT) devices was perfectly legal -- as long as it wasn't done to circumvent copyrights. The ruling underscored definitive ownership -- that when a user legally purchases a device, they should be able to do whatever they want with it. Sure, companies like Apple, Verizon (VZ), and Motorola (MMI) stressed how rooting a device voids its warranty, but users were comforted in the fact that they weren't breaking any laws by doing so.

And as evidenced by the surge in downloads of the latest iPhone 4S and iPad 2 jailbreaking tool, the practice has proven to be quite popular.

Of course, hot on the heels of SOPA, that could all change this year.

Despite the 2010 exemption added to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which permitted jailbreaking, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that the exemption is due to expire this year and those aforementioned companies would love to see it die. The group is hoping to see the measure renewed and extended to cover tablets and video game consoles.

The EFF is calling upon users to contact the US Copyright Office, explain why jailbreaking is important to development, and support the exemption renewal. Here are some tips the group suggests to include in your responses:
  • Which jailbreaking exemption are you supporting—smartphones/tablets, video game consoles, or both?
  • What's your background (i.e., are you a developer, hobbyist, academic, independent researcher, user, etc.)?
  • What device do you want to ensure you have the legal authority to jailbreak?
  • Please explain why you want to jailbreak this device. What limitations do you face if you aren't able to jailbreak it? Is there software you couldn't run, computing capabilities you wouldn't have, cool things you couldn't do, etc.?
  • If you're a developer, did an online application store or console manufacturer reject your app or game? If so, what reasons did they give?
As expected, the dual deaths of SOPA and PIPA haven't placed our digital freedoms under complete and permanent protection. The war continues, and we have to do more than just blackout Wikipedia to keep our consumer rights safeguarded.

(See also: Apple Burning Through Cash in Failed Attempts to Crush Android and iPhone Can't Match Android's Versatility, Says Steve Wozniak)

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