Jailbreaking your iPhone is still legal, your iPad not so much

By , Oct 25, 2012

On July 26, 2010, the Library of Congress ruled that under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), jailbreaking was legal. This was a big deal at the time, as prior to the ruling the legality of jailbreaking was a bit of a mystery.

The decision was part of a list of DMCA exemptions, which unfortunately just expired. So the Library announced a new batch of exemptions today. And although jailbreaking is still legal, it appears there are some significant caveats…

To be clear, jailbreaking was never illegal per se. There was just some uncertainty on whether or not Apple could take legal action against jailbreakers if it ever decided to. But today’s decision makes it clear: jailbreaking is not illegal.

At least on iPhones, anyway. The Register of Copyrights, who is responsible for determining DMCA exemptions, felt that the term “tablet” was too broad to rule on. So unfortunately the iPad was not included in this year’s list of exemptions.

“On the other hand, the Register concluded that the record did not support an extension of the exemption to “tablet” devices. The Register found significant merit to the opposition’s concerns that this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined, as a wide range of devices might be considered “tablets,” notwithstanding the significant distinctions among them in terms of the way they operate, their intended purposes, and the nature of the applications they can accommodate. For example, an ebook reading device might be considered a “tablet,” as might a handheld video game device or a laptop computer.”

The act of unlocking smartphones was also excluded from the new exemptions list. After 6 years of permitting users to unlock their handsets to take to other carriers, the Librarian of Congress decided that it was time to move on.

Why the sudden change? According to the filing, the Register is updating the policy “to align it with today’s market realities.” It believes that carriers are now much more liberal with their unlocking policies, and there is no longer a need to intervene. But don’t worry, all handsets purchased before January of 2013 will be covered under the previous exemption.

To be honest, this doesn’t really change anything in the jailbreak community. We’re not experts or anything, but it seems illogical that it’s legal to jailbreak the iPhone, but not the iPad, and we’re guessing this wouldn’t hold water in most court rooms. And as far as unlocking, they’re right. Getting your carrier or a third-party vendor to unlock your handset is much easier nowadays than it was one or two years ago. So there’s really no reason to perform any kind of software unlock.

If you’re interested in reading through the entire document, you can find it here. And be sure to let us know what you think of the new ruling down in the comments.

[ArsTechnica]

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  • Kurt Andersen

    Exempted doesn’t mean that it is not legal.

    • Falk M.

      Yes, but it’s still a shoe in our faces.

      I don’t jailbreak anymore, but I’d rather feel safe knowing that for whatever reason, should I ever need it, I have the ability to do so.

      (example: complicated troubleshooting, backups, etc…)

    • chjode

      Correct. Just because the Library of Congress didn’t make a specific exemption from the DMCA for tablets, does not make jailbreaking a tablet illegal.

  • Jacob61916

    Sad times now

  • Jacob61916

    Does this mean no more jailbreaks for iPad?

    • http://twitter.com/TheLustigLabs Lakota Lustig

      No public ones:) I have a few ones I’m making up my sleeve:) Follow my twitter : @thelustiglabs for more info:)

      • http://twitter.com/JHerthop John Herthop

        I’m working on this, @jherthop

    • http://twitter.com/doubleaa25 Adham

      Not necessarily. Jailbreaks were made available for iPhone and iPod Touch long before this DCMA exception.

      • http://www.facebook.com/coryman876 Cory Nielsen

        I think the tools are only legal because of how they’re released. It’s always 100% free. Then they also make you provide the firmware file, so they distribute no software that apple actually owns. The part that’s illegal I think is the fact that you did it. Not the tool itself since its free. The DMCA is so weird, they except some things just based on what your using it for. I think fair use will also play a deal in this, allowing you one copy of your purchased content, and obtaining it and using it by any means necessary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003172597133 Ecc Thanh

    I pay for it, I can’t do things I want?

    • billypuntove

      well, all of this wouldn’t be such a problem if jailbreak meant only legitimate devs working on improving the devices’ user experience but then we have the flock of users that steal apps via install0us and such apps that make this kind of things happen.

      I really don’t want to resort to insults but this type of users have given the jailbreak community such a bad rep that maybe deserve it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003172597133 Ecc Thanh

        nah I Jb to install cydia apps. I still buy appstore apps though

      • billypuntove

        Exactly. As do I. If everyone did the same this would barely be an issue for Apple. In fact, many iOS feature have drawn inspiration from Cydia apps and tweaks in a way Apple couldn’t deny.

        But then come thieves and ruin in for everybody.

        But you keep doing what you do. I sleep well at night knowing devs get the money they deserver for the work they put in apps, both App Store and Cydia.

      • http://www.facebook.com/coryman876 Cory Nielsen

        This isn’t exactly a valid point. Windows pcs (and TONS of other devices, just so im not picking in windows) need nothing done to them to allow pirated material. Also if this were strictly to stop piracy then why allow drm free music and videos be played on the devices? Why allow purchasing drm free music, this just helps all the pirated music blend in with your legit music. Why allow people to switch apple IDs without removing all your paid apps from the other one? This is a legit form of piracy on ios, just change accounts and download the app free from somebody’s account that you know.

      • Jonathan

        Government shouldnt take into account “rep”, they shouldn’t be doing this at all, but if they must they should look at the facts and if they find tablets is not a good enough definition, then they should go about defining what they mean instead of giving up on them completely.

        There are hundreds/thousands/etc of websites where you can download cracked software for PCs etc, they dont ban all websites…

      • iUser2012

        I don’t think existence of piracy justifies Apple’s approach to lock everything and limit developers to what it deems appropriate. This is the one that prevents developers not the piracy.

        Many people who noticed SBSettings buttons on my notification center wanted to have the same. Yet holy managers at Apple do not let them to have it unless they jailbreak the devices.

        Jailbreaking was around since the early days but even Apple applied some restrictions to AppleID changes etc. to prevent piracy via userID abuse. So piracy still does not justify Apple’s locked up iOs approach.

      • http://www.facebook.com/coryman876 Cory Nielsen

        I think apple likes to lock their devices so people can’t fuck up their own devices by making tons of apps run in the background then claim their device sucks. This way stupid people can’t ruin apples reputation to making good products. If they control what you put on the device, they control how well it can run.

      • iUser2012

        Your point would be valid had it been the case all developers on cydia makes apps that is likely to crash the iOS. Apple basically limits development and imitates Cydia developers at later versions. so if those “background processes” were harmful then why Apple employs them in coming releases? If the intention was really to encourage development that wouldn’t be the case as Apple would be able to put strict performance guidelines as well. Remember all iOS bugs that prevents the device performing as intended (which also result in x.0.1 releases in month of introduction of new iOS version) are made by Apple not Cydia developers.

  • http://twitter.com/myorangeisstuck wahaha

    Still no iOS 6 jailbreak :(

    • http://www.facebook.com/sanil.chitrakar Sanil Chitrakar

      There won’t be any new jb anytime soon. I’ve been following most of the wellknown ios hackers in twitter and reading at their tweets it feels like none of them are working on new jb. :(
      Feels like Iphone 4S will be my last iphone.

  • http://twitter.com/PROEDGEBIKER PROEDGEBIKER.COM

    jailbreak 6.0 FTW!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Gbunit85 Glenn DolFan Baptista

    What’s apple gonna do come to my house check IPad GTFOH!

  • ic0dex

    Jailbreaking is long gone people! It’s sad to say but we will not see a Jailbreak for the iPhone 5 for a long time… Maybe a year if that! Believe me this sucks ass but hey what can we do when there is only a hand full of people out there that can do it but don’t want to anymore. To bad that there is now way for someone to sit down and learn how to jailbreak in 6-12 months.

    I think I’m going to buy an iPhone 4S just to have a jailbroken device. I wonder how does Jay Freeman feel about all if this? I think he should step up and create a jailbreak for the iPhone 5, iPad 3 & 4 and the iPad mini.

    God help us all!

  • Falk M.

    “At least on iPhones, anyway. The Register of Copyrights, who is responsible for determining DMCA exemptions, felt that the term “tablet” was too broad to rule on. So unfortunately the iPad was not included in this year’s list of exemptions.”

    I see… In case of doubt, AGAINST the people and the innocent.
    Also, too lazy to at least try to catch most of the stuff out there…
    You could have made exceptions based on OS for example or anything.
    No, rather not touch the issue AT ALL.

    *cough* lobby *cough*

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.wayman.7 Craig Wayman

    Shit I wish I could jailbreak my iPhone… Still worth upgrading from the 4S to the 5

  • mwpitt52

    Why does’t Jay Freeman actually hire a full time person to work on jailbreaks with all the $ he makes from Cydia…No ever seems to ask that question.

  • http://twitter.com/therealjdizzle Jason Masters

    Live free or die

  • Damian W

    hahhahaha enough said!

  • http://twitter.com/Asad_1nfam0us iFancyYouInAHalalWay

    You just repeated the same thing in all the paragraphs.. Like please keep it to the point.. Just saying cuz not everyone has enough time to read the whole article..

    Here’s an idea, like either make it short, or put a brief summary at the end, that way the daily readers (like me) would know that we can skip to the end and read the last paragraph when we dont have time

    Thanks :)

  • http://twitter.com/_Bedal_ Byron

    I can’t see how they can exclude certain iPads. For example if they make a jailbreak for the A5 chip saying its for the iPhone 4S, what’s stopping anyone using it for the iPad 2, that could maybe be the work around, the Devs say it’s for the iPhone but it’s up to the user if they decide to use it on the iPad, hence breaking the “law”

  • Jonathan

    what a load of bullcrap. People will completely ignore this and watch stuff they’ve bought on any of the devices they’ve bought. I thought the US government wasn’t meant to micromanage people’s lives. Dictating what you do with stuff you have paid for fully, is ridiculous. Good job noone will listen to these old idiots.

  • http://twitter.com/franklylife Frank Anthony

    F*ck the laws and the people that made it… Apple should be happy right? F*ck em too! No jailbreak! No iDevices! Thats my rule.

  • iUser2012

    Instead of failing to define the exemption clearly, making a holistic comment about the case looks like a contradiction in itself as iPhone jailbreaking is exempted but same system with less functions (lack of phone features in iPad) is not exempted. If you claim there is need to distinguish between types of tablets then you would define the criteria for exemption not make a holistic exclusion. That does not make sense and it might make people feel this exemption process is based on arbitrary decisions.

  • http://twitter.com/tnkrulz Taimur Khan

    Who cares if its legal or illegal , people are still going to jailbreak plus when i buy something i own it upto me how i modify and use it. Its like buying a car but no no its illegal to change its tires what a stupid thing. Jailbreak for life ;).

  • Chuck Noriss

    que tweaks é deste iphone na foto?

  • Chuck Noriss

    iphone tweaks that this is in the photo?

  • sambuzzlight

    anybody knows what that blurry notification center tweak is called? and sbsetting theme?

    • Dan

      ncsettings I think? There’s a fastblur variant on rpeitri(spelling?) repo which I used to prefer when I had my iPhone

      • sambuzzlight

        no its actually called ‘blurriedncbackground’ and i have ncsettings installed that looks like more of sbsettings theme unless they came out with ncsettings themes too

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.jonsen Joe Jonsen

    ummm my ipad 3 is jailbroken and will stay that way and if there is no jailbreak for ipad 4 i will not get it..

  • AndyDontCare

    I bought this hunk of hardware, a tangible object. I will do what I want with it. Fuck you, fucking fruit company.

  • Tinus

    The stupiest rule ever if I can’t do whatever on my fully paid iPad. I guess that rule I can’t give it to somebody as a gift or throw in trash can, or blend it, lol. Stupid!

  • MJ

    why is jailbreaking even considered ilegal

  • http://www.facebook.com/braxton.meyer.5 Braxton Meyer

    What is apple allowed to do to me after a jailbreak