Last week, I saw a discussion on Friendfeed about how Apple is taking a stand, so to speak, against the freedom fighters who seek to unshackle the iPhone from its genetic constraints. In other words, Apple has an issue with the jailbreakers – the people who hack the system in order to access otherwise unavailable functionality. Apple claims it is a violation of its copyright to jail break the iPhone. Richard Korman, Esq. has an article on this topic over at ZDNet that collects the filings before the Copyright Office both for and against the exception to the Copyright Laws.
When I first saw the debate, my initial reaction was that Apple’s prohibition on jailbreaking the iPhone should be a matter of contract law, not copyright law. Apparently, counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”), Jennifer Granick, has taken precisely that position. Apple is fighting this position because contract law would require it to sue each and every individual for breach of contract in its crusade to protect the integrity of the device. Copyright law offers an easier and less expensive route for stopping offenders, with its automatic statutory damages of $2,500 per offense and possible criminal repercussions.
I have trouble viewing copyright law as the proper mechanism here. Saul Hansel in the New York Times gives voice to my own impressions about this ill-fitted remedy:
This is the exasperating part. It’s hardly clear that the Library of Congress, which does look after copyright law, is the right place for this debate. After all, the copyrighted software is really a small part of a cellphone and not really part of the fundamental issue.
I find slight consolation in the fact that my initial impressions were mirrored by people with far more experience in this area than myself. But that does little to curb my frustration with a corporate giant that wishes to waste taxpayer dollars by exploiting a system not necessarily designed to redress the “problem” it believes it has. Whatever happened to good, old, capitalistic freedom of contract?
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