Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Digital Millennium Copyright Act Exemption Unlikely for iPad Jailbreak

It’s difficult to get accurate data on how many customers have jailbroken their iPhones. But based on the number of unique device identifiers tracked on his server, Freeman claims that about 4 million, or 10 percent of the 40 million iPhone and iPod Touch owners to date, have installed Cydia. On a recent day, he said 470,000 people were connecting to the Cydia store, up from 350,000 per day just a few months ago. Among many free apps, there are also 15 paid apps in Cydia, and the store has earned $220,000 in overall sales in just five months.

A lot and little has transpired following the Electronic Frontier Foundation asking the U.S. Copyright Office for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for authorization to jailbreak an iPhone or any “wireless telephone handsets.”

For starters, the Copyright Office’s decision has been pending since December 2008 — although a ruling is expected any time.

During that wait, however, Apple unveiled the iPad — a gadget with the same closed ecosystem of the iPhone that isn’t likely covered in EFF’s request. All of which means that a jailbreaking exemption for the iPad likely cannot be made until late 2011 or 2012, the next time the Copyright Office opens up requests for DMCA exemptions.

“We limited it to phones. This was the only category of devices where this was a problem in 2008,” said Fred von Lohmann, the EFF attorney who wrote the DMCA phone exemption.

The proposal, if approved, clearly would pave the way for third-party apps on the iPhone — hence turning the iPhone into a blank slate to run whatever its owner wishes. More than 3 billion apps have been downloaded from iTunes, and Apple claims sanctioning the hack would be a blow to its financial future.

The iPhone hack is part of the exemption process under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Every three years, the Librarian of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office entertain proposals for exemptions to copyright law. It’s not likely that a ruling in EFF’s favor would include the iPad — which will debut in more than a month — although von Lohmann isn’t “conceding” iPad defeat.

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