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New government rules allow un-approved iPhone apps

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WASHINGTON » Owners of the iPhone will be able to legally unlock their devices so they can run software applications that have not been approved by Apple Inc., according to new government rules announced yesterday.

The decision to allow the practice commonly known as "jailbreaking" is one of a handful of new exemptions from a 1998 federal law that prohibits people from bypassing technical measures that companies put on their products to prevent unauthorized use of copyright-protected material. The Library of Congress, which oversees the Copyright Office, reviews and authorizes exemptions every three years to ensure that the law does not prevent certain noninfringing uses of copyright-protected works.

For iPhone jailbreakers the rules effectively legitimize a practice that has been operating in a legal gray area by exempting it from liability. Apple says jailbreaking is an unauthorized modification of its software.

‘JAILBREAKING’ LEGAL

Owners of the iPhone will be able to legally unlock their devices so they can run software applications that have not been approved by Apple Inc. — a practice known as "jailbreaking."

» Copyright exemptions: The decision to allow jailbreaking is one of a handful of new exemptions from a 1998 federal law that prohibits people from bypassing technical measures that companies put on their products to prevent unauthorized uses.
» Copyright review: The Library of Congress, which oversees the Copyright Office, reviews and authorizes exemptions every three years to ensure that the law does not prevent certain noninfringing uses of copyright-protected material.
» On the Net: www.loc.gov

Source: Associated Press

Mario Ciabarra, founder of Rock Your Phone, which calls itself an "independent iPhone application store," said the rules mark the first step toward opening the iPhone app market to competition and removing the "handcuffs" that Apple imposes on developers that want to reach users of the wildly popular device.

Unless users unlock their handsets, they can download apps only from Apple’s iTunes store. Software developers must get such apps pre-approved by Apple.

Although Apple has never prosecuted anyone for jailbreaking, it does use software upgrades to disable jailbroken phones, and the new government rules will not put a stop to that. That means owners of such phones might not be able to take advantage of software improvements, and they still run the risk of voiding their warranty.

Apple spokesman Natalie Kerris said yesterday the company is concerned about jailbreaking because the practice can make an iPhone unstable and unreliable.

"Apple’s goal has always been to ensure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone, and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience," she said.

 

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