iPhone users don’t have to fear criminal charges for jailbreaking their iPhones, thanks to new rules the Library of Congress handed down yesterday.
But the hack is still risky.
Apple tells me it’s still quite possible that by "jailbreaking," or altering your phone’s software to let it run apps that aren’t officially sanctioned by Apple, you could still end up voiding your warranty.
So why does this matter? It’s a step toward giving consumers more control over their technology. And the rule change could embolden the community of developers that’s making unsanctioned iPhone apps. With these new rules, it will be harder for Apple to argue that consumers shouldn't load up their phones with software that isn’t necessarily harmful, but that the tastemakers in Cupertino just doesn’t care for – things like Google Voice and pornography.
Here's what Apple has to say about it:
"Apple's goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience. As we've said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably."
You might be wondering what the Library of Congress is doing issuing iPhone rules in the first place. It all goes back to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, a piece of legislation that was supposed to update the rules of content for the digital age. Consumer advocates have criticized the law as too restrictive on what consumers can do with software and other digital goods they buy. That’s led consumer advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation to fight legal battles to tweak the rules – and these latest changes are a direct result of the EFF’s campaign.