Monday, October 8, 2007

Unlocking the iPhone

The Apple iPhone has caused quite a stir in the pockets of Americans. The latest stirring has been about the rights of the owners versus the rights of Apple to restrict what users do with their iPhones. More specifically, Apple would like to put an abrupt stop to the tampering of iPhones so that carriers other than AT&T can be used, in addition to the dozens of programs created by non-Apple entities. Unfortunately for Apple, our free trade market does not offer protection from competition. According to Tim Wu at, "Part of the copyright code, Section 1201 of the famous Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, makes it illegal to break digital locks to get at copyrighted works. But that doesn't make unlockers criminals. The reason is an explicit exemption for personal unlocking issued by the librarian of Congress in 2006. As the librarian wrote, the locks "are used by wireless carriers to limit the ability of subscribers to switch to other carriers, a business decision that has nothing whatsoever to do with the interests protected by copyright."
It's a sticky situation and one that won't be cleaned up quickly. When it comes to copyrights, capitalism, and the capabilities of code-cracking citizens, things can get a little bit convoluted. Crikey.