Cydia icon iPhone 5s

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (or EFF) is once again fighting to keep the practice of jailbreaking legal. The non-profit digital rights group announced this week that it has filed a petition with the Librarian of Congress and the Copyright Office to extend and expand the exemption that allows you to jailbreak your phone, without violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Because the software on mobile phones and tablets is copyrighted, the act of jailbreaking (and rooting on Android devices) is technically forbidden by the DMCA. But Congress created a procedure to allow for exemptions on activities where users make fair use of copyrighted works, reviewed every three years. The last exemption for jailbreaking was awarded in 2012, so it’s set to expire soon.

We saw this process play out with unlocking early last year, where its exemption expired and the act became illegal, punishable by fines up to $500,000. This has changed since then, obviously, with the White House getting involved, but it doesn’t seem likely we’ll see that outcome again. Jailbreaking is somewhat of a controversial practice, marred by intimidating malware and rampant piracy.

I like the EFF’s take on why jailbreaking is important:

That’s important because jailbreaking (or “rooting,” on Android devices) has real-world implications for users’ ability to use their phones and tablets effectively and securely. It may be a necessary step before installing security updates after a device has stopped being supported by the manufacturer. In other cases, it may help users install accessibility software that allows them to use a device despite disabilities.

A quick look around iDownloadBlog is a testament to how we feel about jailbreaking, and why this is important to us. We offer one of the most comprehensive collections of jailbreak coverage on the web, we sponsor and attend the annual Jailbreakcon event, and put out a weekly podcast on the topic. We’ll be keeping an eye on the EFF’s petition, and will pass along new details as we receive them.


  • Buzz { Light:Year; }

    Better pass.

    • Paymon John Vafa

      Even if it doesn’t:

      USA Copyright has no jurisdiction on pangu and I would love to see them enforce it on people using the tool lol.

      Only way apple can stop jb at the moment is to lobby China’s legal system.

      • Buzz { Light:Year; }

        Your so right!!!!!!!! Holy cross didn’t even think of that haha

      • Paymon John Vafa

        However, I haven’t studied DMCA yet, so I wonder if contributory liability apples for Cydia… Hmm

      • Dani Hayes

        In some bizarre act it does pass, the person that jailbreaks can still be prosecutored by law. Same as an iPad currently.

      • Paymon John Vafa

        Yeah but how are they going to find out without violating my 4th amendment right? lol

  • Bugs Bunnay

    don’t see why it shouldn’t pass. even if it becomes illegal doesn’t mean it’ll stop us from jailbreaking. imagine a cop pulls you over and asks if you jailbroke your phone. hah! yeah right.

    • Jonathan Elliott

      I really wouldn’t be surprised if the cops did that here in Fl lolz

      • Dani Hayes

        I wouldn’t either. Florida has had some wtf stuff happen.

  • Cody

    Slow day news at iDB?

    • Kieran.Lillis

      I don’t mind them having the weekend off. I’m sure they’ve got other things to do as well.

    • Melvco

      not sure if trolling or…? Yes, news is typically *much* slower on weekends but we would have run this story on Thursday or Friday if we had known about it. As stated in the last paragraph, jailbreaking is very important to iDB, so the fact that its legal status may soon change is rather significant to us.

  • Diego Milano

    How about Apple supplying the jailbreak themselves and adding a disclaimer to it that goes like this, “This makes your guarantee no longer valid; use at your own risk. Apple takes no responsibility for damaging your device, etc.”? 🙂

    • Rowan09

      Why would they do that? i remember when the New iPad came out and people that bought the 2nd Generation complained. Apple took back the second Gen owners iPads that bought it when the The New iPad came out. There is no way anyone would be satisfied buying an iDevice with no warranty even if Apple says so. The DMCA needs to come into the 21 century already and this is the real issue.

      • Dani Hayes

        That was the iPad 3 not the iPad 2.

      • Rowan09

        I know I own one. I said that in my statement iPad 2 owners were mad when the New iPad came out.

      • Jung eifr

        iPad 3 owners were mad when the iPad 4 came out actually…

      • Diego Milano

        I wasn’t referring to the hardware at any point; I was purely stating that Apple should just give users the ability to choose whether they want to customize the device at their own risk -with everything that entails, including losing the warranty and yada yada-, that’s all, just a power of choice. Right now, for example, Apple is allowing third-party keyboards, whereas just a year ago that would have been outrageous. So it seems that little by little they are sort of changing their minds and being more open-minded, of course, they are just acommodating to what the market had been offering and they were not.

      • Rowan09

        Yes I understand but it’s like asking Google to open up maps and YouTube to users. Apple makes the hardware and software so they won’t allow you do to whatever you choose. People won’t be satisfied. If they mess up their iPhones even after choosing customizing over warranty, they will go to the Apple Store complaining. Google doesn’t make the hardware only software so it’s fine for them allowing some form of customizing, but if you notice they won’t allow customizing Maps, Gmail, Google keyboards, etc. I’m fine with jailbreaking as a solution.

      • Diego Milano

        Yeah, I agree. I suppose it’s always best to keep the OS safe and patched, especially since iPhone is the preferred device got corporate purposes, thus security is an issue of concern.

  • Antzboogie

    Wow I hope it passes it’s our iPhones we should be able to do what we want. Not let it be restricted and controlled even after we buy it at full price for $800+

    • John

      As a non-jaibreaker, this justification makes no sense to me at all.
      I agree that you have purchased the hardware but what LEGAL claim do you have over the software?

      • Rigs101

        I’m sure he meant we can do what we want but in a customizing way like themes

      • mrgerbik

        Since the user owns the hardware, and has no choice as to the OS software installed on it, modification of the software should be allowed.
        Leagaleez can be detrimental – especially when laws dont bend.

        Whatever happened to the spirit of the law???

      • Abraham

        I agree. if I’m allowed to modify my car to any extent and be legal then why can’t i jailbreak legally? Makes no sense. I can even swap the engine out if I wanted to! That’s rediculous.

      • Rowan09

        If you own a car financing, you can’t choose to not have insurance or liability. I think this law is stupid and I’ll jailbreak regardless.

  • Warmachine69

    I’ll still be jailbreaking! Can’t the government focus on something more important!

    • Rowan09

      I agree. At one point jail breaking was illegal just like unlocking but it never stopped anyone.

  • Jesse

    Honestly, even if this doesn’t pass and jailbreaking becomes “illegal” law enforcement have much better things to do than investigate someone jailbreaking his/her phone. No police officer is going to charge you with jailbreaking your phone or unlocking it, it would be very difficult to catch and a big waste of time. It’s ridiculous. Plus the more recent jailbreaks have been from china (pangu) and obviously the US can’t shut them down.

  • Xee

    3 years is too short. It should be 10-20 years or permanent!

  • i think Jailbreaking Should be Legal and Unlocking Should be Decided by