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iPhone: Is Unlocking Legal or Illegal?

Is Apple in violation of California antitrust laws by limiting iPhone to AT&T's network only?

The Apple iPhone, which has already come under intense criticism for failing to allow third-party programs and for its incompatibility with the Flash and Java platforms, has a new challange to overcome in the form of a class-action lawsuit filed against it by a California resident claiming Apple is in violation of California antitrust laws by limiting iPhone to AT&T's network only.

Timothy Smith's suit claims that, thanks to a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allowing any user to ask carrier-subsidized phones to be unlocked 90 days after purchase, unlocking must be legal.

As has been widely reported, various unlocking solutions are currently circulating on the Internet. Some are based purely on software and require no hardware modifications.

Writing in an online journal, Tim Wu recently opined: "I did just throw down more than $400 for this little toy," continuing: "I'm no property-rights freak, but that iPhone is now my personal property, and that ought to stand for something."

Apple's claim is that unlocking an iPhone is a violation of its terms of service, of which users are made aware via an on-screen contract.

Wu notes, wistfully: " As economist Eric Von Hippel teaches in Democratizing Innovation, much product improvement comes from users who monkey with and enhance the products they use every day. "

Apple hasn't swallowed the Von Hippel kool-aid just yet, it seems.

More Stories By iPhone News Desk

iPhone News Desk monitors the new world of the iPhone to present software developers and IT professionals with immediate updates on related technology advances, software and business trends, new products and standards in the iPhone and i-technology space.

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Most Recent Comments
PSSADM 10/10/07 09:22:28 PM EDT

MINOR REVISION: SEE **** below

I think the iPhone is a device like any other PDA. Apple should offer a flash back to original software. If something happens to my Apple PC and the hard drive fails.. I have the operating system and can reload it if required. It only makes sense. The fact that they made an update that would A) re-lock the phone and B) make it so a person can not go back to the first or earlier version of the software suggests it was malicious and designed with the intent to damage the phone. I don't think they should have the right to do that. I also believe that the iPhone should be available for any carrier and *** NOT *** limited to AT&T. I'd like to one day update my "unlocked" phone without having to worry about it becoming a paper weight.

That's my take.

PSSADM 10/10/07 09:20:43 PM EDT

I think the iPhone is a device like any other PDA. Apple should offer a flash back to original software. If something happens to my Apple PC and the hard drive fails.. I have the operating system and can reload it if required. It only makes sense. The fact that they made an update that would A) re-lock the phone and B) make it so a person can not go back to the first or earlier version of the software suggests it was malicious and designed with the intent to damage the phone. I don't think they should have the right to do that. I also believe that the iPhone should be available for any carrier and limited to AT&T. I'd like to one day update my "unlocked" phone without having to worry about it becoming a paper weight.

That's my take.

David Kravets 10/09/07 07:56:46 AM EDT

Unlocking your iPhone is legal; distributing the hack, maybe not...

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