Ever since the iPhone was introduced in 2007, people have felt stifled by the fact that the only things you could load onto the iPhone was the applications the company approved.  Unless an app made it through the approval process set forth by the company, you were out of luck on getting it onto your phone, iPod Touch or even now the iPad.  However, leave it to people with a lot of technological know how to figure out a way around these issues, and thus was the jailbreaking movement born.

jailbroken iPhoneThe concept of “jailbreaking” a phone is to run a simple program, or snippet of code, which will “root” the phone. This means to give the owner of the phone access to the root system of the phone and let them do with it as they please from running unapproved programs, taking it to another carrier or, in the case of Android phones, updating the operating system before the carrier officially sends it out.  Although it does happen on other smartphones, the most famous incidents of this happening has always been with the iPhone, and up until iOS 4, a lot of times it was time to add the ability to multitask to the system.

On Monday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) finally received a ruling from the U.S. Copyright Office over questions that had been raised about jailbreaking a phone being a violation of copyright law laid out by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and the government did indeed rule that jailbreaking was fair use, and did not violate the act.

The problem is that everyone is now running around claiming that this has made it completely legal to jailbreak your phone, but there are other issues that keep this from being true.  In purchasing the phone you are agreeing to a Terms of Service (ToS) that prohibits rooting, and some states will view this as a contract.  It also ruled that Apple restricting what can run on its devices is not a copyright issue, it was merely ruling that you were not violating a copyright by doing so, you may very well still be violating other laws.

In short, this isn’t the sweeping victory that some seem to believe it is.  Yes, it is a step in the right direction, but don’t think it is some smashing blow against “the man,” and continue to tread carefully when choosing if you want to go through this process.  And, hopefully you don’t want a warranty anymore because Apple reminded Cult of Mac that jailbreaking does void your warranty:

Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience. As we’ve said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably.

What say you?  Do you think this was a step in the right direction?