DMCA rules it's okay to jailbreak your iPhone, but not your iPad

The DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) has extended the exception that makes it legal to jailbreak your iPhone which will be good news for most of the jailbreak community. It doesn't come without a few hefty caveats though including new rules on unlocking and the fact that tablets, namely the iPad, are not granted the same exception.

The DMCA has recently renewed their exception to make jailbreaking your iPhone legal but it doesn't come without some serious drawbacks this time around. When it comes to unlocking your iPhone, it won't be covered under the exception unless the actual carrier unlocks it for you.

This basically means that any iPhone (or smartphone at all for that matter) that you purchase as of January 2013 will require you to get the carrier's permission in order to unlock it. Software unlocks such as ultrasn0w will be considered illegal. If you've got a smartphone that you've purchased before January 2013, you'll still be covered under the exception but any smartphone purchases made after that date won't receive the benefits of the old exemption.

When it comes to tablets, the DMCA has decided not to grant the same jailbreak exception.

What about tablets? No dice. The Librarian "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 e-book reading device might be considered a 'tablet,' as might a handheld video game device or a laptop computer."The Librarian ruled that "the record lacked a sufficient basis to develop an appropriate definition for the 'tablet' category of devices, a necessary predicate to extending the exemption beyond smartphones."

The exception goes on to talk about laws on DVDs and other types of media such as eBooks as well. If you care to find out everything the exemption, hit the source link below then come back and tell us what you make of it all. Is it fair or do you think the DMCA is out of touch with electronic rights in our day and age?

Source: Ars Technica

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

  • I'm making $86 an hour working from home. I was shocked when my neighbour told me she was averaging $95 but I see how it works now. I feel so much freedom now that I'm my own boss. This is what I do,
  • This is completely arbitrary. Is it now legal to jailbreak an iPhone but not an iPod touch? What about phablets (Galaxy Note II), smartphones that dock into a tablet shell (Asus Padfone), or 7" inch tablets that can make voice calls (international version of the Galaxy Tab)? When voice over LTE arrives, regular voice calls will be made over IP. How different is that really from a tablet with a VOIP app and cellular data?
  • It doesn't matter if it's legal or not - people are going to do it one way or the other.
  • New law, Jailbreaking = legal. Jailbreaking for Piracy to save $0.99 on an app that one-two people spent months making = illegal. I think Apple should make it legit, but flag all Jailbroken devices, as no support or whatever, or throw in a Jailbreak App Ranking system. Meaning, Jailbreaks for IntelliscreenX or SBSettings are good after a restore so they get support as normal, but Unlocking apps, Terminals and so on, flag as hardware mods at the user's risk. If they made a deal with the Jailbreak guys to only release RedSn0w with a block for Piracy, I think they'd do it.
  • Exactly! The jailbreak community as been vocal about anti-piracy. I think Apple should strike a deal with the jailbreak tool developers and have it modified to refuse installation of pirated apps.
  • I call bull$4!t on this. I jailbreak because I was more control, not to steal apps. If I wanted stolen or crap-apps I would still be on android (to anyone trolling tonight go ahead and rant, I don't care nor will I give you the time of day when your done). The bottom line is that I paid a hard earned $699 on my iPad 3. I'll do what the hell I want with it and every other iPad I buy in the future.
  • To me, it looks like the DCMA exception was not extended to cover the iPad due only to the difficulty in defining the word "tablet". Even the quote in the above article covers this - "the record lacked a sufficient basis to develop an appropriate definition for the 'tablet' category of devices, a necessary predicate to extending the exemption beyond smartphones". So basically, it hasn't been extended to the iPad, because they don't want to open the door to "jailbreaking" things like the PSP/DS, where piracy is an issue (this was particularly the case with the PSP early in it's lifetime). Regardless of what the iOS jailbreak community's stance on piracy is, there isn't going to be a ruling in this regard until there is a definite definition of "tablet", and then, depending on the definition, it might be applied and might not.
  • iPhone, iPad, or Nexus 7...if I bought it, it is mine. I can jailbreak it, root it, or use it as a tea cozy. If, once I jailbreak, I use it to steal, THEN the law should come down on me in all its fury. For the crime of theft. Not for doing-something-that-may-or-may-not-lead-to-stealing-in-some-future. Non-infringing uses cases are key. A knife can be used to cut bread, or to stab a person. We do not criminalize the simple purchase or possession of knives - we come down hard on those who would use them to stab somebody. The DMCA perverts the fundamental burden of proof, presuming all jailbreakers are person-stabbers unless proven otherwise. As long as there are significant non-infringing uses for jailbreaking, it should not and cannot be considered illegal. If one use among many facilitates piracy, I have no problem with law enforcement using it as a marker when investigating the actual crime of theft, but criminalizing jailbreaking itself runs contrary to our system of justice -- or should be -- if such laws could not be bought.
  • I agree. I have, in the past, paid for apps that were jailbreak only. I don't see it as any different than paying for apps on the Appstore. I do wish though that Apple would create a way to trial apps for a few minutes to see if it is worth purchasing.
  • DCMA...haha. I bought both products and I own both products. I will do whatever I want with them and I also would love for you to try to tell me. You can make all the rulings in the world and no one is listening. Whats next, someone cant modify a car or a house they purchased?