January 8, 2009 | By Fred von Lohmann

Calling All iPhone Developers: Support EFF's DMCA Exemption for Jailbreaking

iPhone application developers have until February 2, 2009 to submit comments to the Copyright Office in support of EFF's proposal for a DMCA exemption for iPhone owners who want to "jailbreak" their iPhones to gain the freedom to install applications of their choice. If you're an iPhone app developer, and you have a story about your frustration with Apple's chokehold over iPhone apps, please share it with the Copyright Office. Legalizing jailbreaking is a critical step in loosening Apple's grip and creating an open market for iPhone applications.

Apple uses "software locks" to prevent applications other than those sold from the iTunes App Store from running on the iPhone. The process of modifying an iPhone to run applications from other sources is known as "jailbreaking" (this is different from "unlocking," which generally refers to modifying an iPhone to operate with a different network carrier). Although hundreds of thousands of iPhone owners have already jailbroken their phones, Apple is likely to argue that the act of jailbreaking violates the DMCA's ban on circumventing software locks. In an effort to lift this legal cloud, EFF has proposed that the Copyright Office grant a 3-year exemption from the DMCA to permit jailbreaking.

Apple's shackling iPhone owners to the iTunes App Store has nothing to do with protecting Apple software from piracy. Instead, it's all about limiting competition and innovation on the iPhone platform. For example, Apple has refused to approve iPhone apps that compete with Apple's own software, such as Mail, Safari, and iTunes. Apple has also censored ebooks from the App Store. And developers of iPhone VoIP applications have also encountered inexplicable delays in app approval.

So, if you're an iPhone developer, and you are frustrated with Apple's iPhone app approval process, please consider sharing your experience with the Copyright Office and supporting EFF's proposed DMCA exemption for jailbreaking.

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