Jailbreaking is a way to break off from the limitations imposed by the mobile vendor to download additional applications and themes etc. which aren’t available otherwise. It provides root access to the device by use of custom kernels. It is common with the iDevices and has been rendered legal by the efforts of EEF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) in July 2010.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is now determined to make Jailbreaking legal for all the consumer electric goods. They have asked the US copyright office to declare it legal to jailbreak all the devices like smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles etc. no matter who the vendor is. The aim behind this plead is to change the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which prohibits such an access to the user.
The foundation has requested companies not to oppose the case, as they believe that technology has evolved to the extent that the need of the hour is to expand its horizons and broaden its sphere for the day to day users so that the real world uses of smartphones, tablets, video games, consoles, DVD’s and video downloads can be explored.
The foundation has offered that if in any case US wants to protect the jail breaking of all consumer electronics, all the companies can be subjected to the same set of rules as to which Apple is i.e:
It is legal to jailbreak iPhone, but the company still holds the right to retain the jail breakers with its company actions and warranty policies.
Apple has been utilizing these rulings with it’s recently released iOS. The company cannot sue you for jail breaking but it can refuse its customer services.
Following statement was issued by EFF:
The DMCA is supposed to block copyright infringement. But instead it can be misused to threaten creators, innovators, and consumers, discouraging them from making full and fair use of their own property,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “Hobbyists and tinkerers who want to modify their phones or video game consoles to run software programs of their choice deserve protection under the law. So do artists and critics who use short excerpts of video content to create new works of commentary and criticism. Copyright law shouldn’t be stifling such uses – it should be encouraging them.
Making jail breaking legal has its merits and demerits. On the positive side, it supports innovation but by providing root access, though to a lower level, can open up gates for potential security threats.
No cases have been reported till date of iOS users being affected by malware resulting from jailbreak but there remains a threat of “Wild West” malware environment if jail breaking indeed becomes legal for other consumer devices.
Till now, there have been quite a few notable cases of non-Apple devices being jail broken and the brokers being sued by the companies. The hackers are mostly those who try their luck with iDevices at first like the most notorious GeoHot who first jail broke iPhone in 2007 and then faced trials for Sony Play Station 3. Similarly a jailbreak for Blackberry tablet has also been recently released by an iOS hacker community.
To know the future of innovative yet potentially destructive “JailBreaking” phenomena, we will have stay tuned for the hearing to be taken place in spring 2012.