I just read an article that basically alludes to the fact that the iPhone has been hacked. While I’m all in favour of this, there seems to be some question as to whether or not it is actually legal to do so. To that end, I’m a fairly certain it could be argued that the iPhone “lock” is a form of copy protection, in which case it would fall under the DMCA, and hence be illegal to circumvent.
We’ll have to see how it all plays out, but I suspect the guys are gonna be in for a few legal headaches.
So, the DMCA was updated last year with the following provisions:
Exemptions are allowed for 1) the educational library of a university’s media studies department, in order to watch film clips in class; 2) using computer software that requires the original disks or hardware in order to run; 3) dongle-protected computer programs, if the the dongle no longer functions and a replacement cannot be found; 4) protected e-books, in order to use screen-reader software; 5) cell phone firmware that ties a phone to a specific wireless network; and 6) DRM software included on audio CDs, but only when such software creates security vulnerabilities on personal computers.
The provision likely to be of most interest to consumers is the one allowing cell phones to be unlocked and used on other networks. The Copyright Office allowed this exception because the software that prohibits users from accessing their phone’s firmware has little to do with copyright and much to do with a business model.
So, it appears unlocking cell phones is currently legal. That being said, there is still some question about whether or not profitting from the unlocking of a phone is legal:
The U.S. District Court in Orlando, Florida, found that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act exception did not apply to those unlocking a phone with the intent to resell it.