iPhone jailbreaking could be given legal exemption

Apple is set for a legal battle against jailbreaking the iPhone. The US Copyright Office is considering whether to allow an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that would permit jailbreaking, according to IDG news service.

Once an iPhone has been jailbroken, it can run any software, not just that sanctioned by Apple and bought through its App Store.

The Copyright Office holds a series of hearings on possible exemptions to US copyright law every three years as a matter of course. Previously it has granted copy exemptions to people such as college film professors who want to make compilations for their students or users of obsolete software who need to copy their programs to new media formats, IDG says.

Apple has hired Fenwick & West’s intellectual property lawyer David Hayes to represent it at the hearing, and has filed a 27-page legal brief (pdf) arguing that legalising jailbreaking would lead to "copyright infringement, potential damage to the device and other potential harmful physical effects, adverse effects on the functioning of the device, and breach of contract."

Apple has not prosecuted hackers who developed jailbreak software, but has always opposed the practice.