Is Apple Suggesting That The DMCA Prevents Terrorism?

from the yeah,-that's-believable dept

The EFF is trying to get a DMCA exemption from the Library of Congress for people who jailbreak their iPhones (if history is any indication, this won’t happen — the Library of Congress never seems to care about consumer rights). However, Apple’s response to the Library of Congress, suggesting that open or jailbroken iPhones could be used by terrorists to bring down cell towers is both preposterous and totally unrelated to the issue at hand. First it’s preposterous, as there are plenty of “open” devices out there already, and there has yet to be a single report of anyone taking down a cell tower with their mobile phone.

But, much more to the point: the point of copyright is not to protect us from terrorists taking down cell towers. If we, as a country, are relying on the DMCA to protect us from terrorists who don’t want us making phone calls, we’ve got bigger problems. Even if it were true that terrorists could take down cell towers with an open mobile phone, does anyone actually think they’d shy away from doing so because it violated the DMCA? It’s not like that’s going to make much of a difference at all. It’s entirely meaningless to the question of whether or not legal buyers of a mobile device should have the right to place whatever legal software they want on the device.

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Comments on “Is Apple Suggesting That The DMCA Prevents Terrorism?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Swiss Cheese Argument Smells like Guda

If cell towers are taken down, it’s not an Apple Problem. It’s not even an AT&T or Sprint problem, it’s a problem of the third parties who now own most of the towers. (Yes, a great deal of towers are owned/managed by Crown Castle, American Tower or other entities.)

Besides, this data is available searching the respective websites so they can market space on the towers to other companies. Point is, this is an invalid argument.

It should be a problem that is so distanced from Apple for them to really care, and I doubt the Tower Management Industry would like Apple poking their nose into their business. A more likely reason for this is that jailbreaking is the result of some other revenue-robbing stream- maybe apps or something. That makes more sense.

ACalcutt (user link) says:

The other comment was more interesting

I found this comment more interesting

“Apple also claimed that jailbreaking would pave the way for hackers to alter the Exclusive Chip Identification number that identified the phone to the cell tower, which could enable calls to be made anonymously. Apple said “this would be desirable to drug dealers.””

since jailbreaking is already possible, does this mean this “Exclusive Chip Identification number” is already changeable? What does being “Anonymous” actually mean?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The other comment was more interesting

Maybe they’re worried about firmware updates and/or updates to the PRL. On CDMA, ESNs are hard coded, but PRLs (the list of towers that a provider has) is exclusive to CDMA providers.

If this is the case, it could confirm they are closing in on a CDMA variation of the iPhone, but remain worried about users re-flashing the PRL so it would work on other CDMA networks.

Example: Carrier X gets CDMA exclusivity to iPhone CDMA, but Carrier Y has a better rateplan. The phone could possibly be re-flashed to work on Carrier Y, which is more desirable to the end-user. This may cause Carrier X to loose revenue.
Proposed Fix: Keep people from using Carrier Y via legal manuvering and an exception to DCMA.

pjhenry1216 (profile) says:

Re: A different perspective

His take is blown out of proportion in the complete opposite direction. If jailbreaking an iPhone somehow gives you more access to the phone as opposed to jailbreaking any other phone, then thats problem with the design and needs to be fixed. Security holes should not be plugged by laws, they should be plugged by software fixes. And no, commercial interests can’t distribute malicious software and claim protection. If its malicious, they’ll still get in trouble.

Dan’s take is actually pretty ridiculous once you stop and think about it. Most of his stuff is sensationalist and he does little to hide his biased against Apple competitors.

pjhenry1216 (profile) says:

Re: Re: A different perspective

I also enjoy how if anybody ever says something bad about Apple, that entire entity is somehow seen as always bashing Apple and anti-Apple. Wired is historically an Apple supporter and its generally the exception when you see an anti-Apple article in Wired. I guess Apple fans really did find a way to justify Apple’s position in this.

Dan J. (profile) says:

Apple's arguments

Let me start by saying that I don’t buy Apple’s arguments for a second. It’s lame and obviously a scare tactic that Apple is hoping with influence the non-technical members of the committee. That beings said, I think their argument is being somewhat mischaracterized above. Their argument isn’t that the DMCA will prevent terrorists from jailbreaking the iPhone. Their argument is that the DMCA will prevent or at least slow down the proliferation of tools that would allow the terrorist to jailbreak iPhones.

This is pretty silly, since there are already plenty of tools out there to do so, but at least there’s a thread of attempted logic there. They aren’t claiming that a terrorist is going to say “Gee, I’d like to jailbreak this iPhone and attack a cell tower but the DMCA says I can’t, so I guess I won’t.” They’re saying that adding an exemption would make it easier for a terrorist to find the tools to do the jailbreak.

Ryan says:

Re: Apple's arguments

thread of attempted logic

I find it funny that you actually wasted a minute typing up a rationalization for a “thread of attempted logic”. I suppose if Apple wanted to take this further, they could try to get the government to outlaw all of its competitors, since any terrorist could buy one of those instead.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Apple's arguments

Yea I read that as their argument also, however due to the fact there are so many ways to take down a cell tower in a far more effective manner their statements are rather empty. Hell all of their arguments are automatically trash because someone could just use ANOTHER phone to do everything they suggest. Another phone, while less popular, but is more open, cheaper, and with more horses under the hood (and a crappy GUI but home brew terrorist applications don’t need fancy multi touch screens)

RobC says:

You are off base

This is totally blown out of proportion and misconstrued. Apple made fairly accurate statements that jailbroken phones may not function properly and can cause issues to OTHER consumers on the network. (page 11, last paragraph).

With all this crap on “checking your sources” from TechDirt, I hope you do more than just whine. This is a clear case of Wired (and now TechDirt too) hyping something out of proportion. No where in the document does Apple claim threats to national security or some grandiose notional of mass network destruction. In fact, Apple points out the larger monetary affects and burden to existing resources (including tech support, overloaded bandwidth).

Finally, this is not about “an open phone” being a threat to national security, as this TechDirt article suggests. Apple is indicating that based on it’s trusted relationship with AT&T (page 12), compromises to the underlying software may open the network services to a greater threat. Given that Apple uses ECID technology to enforce some services; compromises may affect the compromised phone and in some cases the network.

Apple’s making a pretty clear point that compromises to the OS increases the risk to the phone os and/or other functionality. I think that’s kind of obvious; when people hack it, it doesn’t work right. Go figure.

I think this is just Apple’s attempt to reduce it’s own accountability when jailbroken phones screw something up and people complain.

So where in this document, not Wired’s opinion article but the actual Apple response document, do you see the implication to national security? Where in fact do you see major network or system failures that would ALLUDE to such a conclusion?

JackSombra (profile) says:

Re: You are off base

“This is totally blown out of proportion and misconstrued. Apple made fairly accurate statements that jailbroken phones may not function properly and can cause issues to OTHER consumers on the network. (page 11, last paragraph).”
Even that’s still an stupid and inaccurate statement, if this was a real issue we would have all the non apple phones (and jail broken iphone) causing problems to the networks for years and guess what? Does not happen

The whole iPhone lock down is about one thing and one thing only, apple controlling what you can and cannot do with your purchase after the point of sale, anything else is an excuse trying to justify something that non apple product users would find totally unacceptable

Joshua says:

Both you people and Apple are missing the point…
When I buy a car is it legal to put a different engine in it?
Does it matter that with a faster engine i might outrun persuing law enforcement?
Does it matter that with a larger suspension i might haul a larger bomb somewhere?
Terrorists sould easily do either of those things…
I don’t see them trying to make it illegal to work on my car? Or do anything i want to it…
When i buy something i own it… i can cut it into pieces or whatever… it is mine…
Like a computer… I could load any OS i want… I don’t have to use the Windows or whatever it came with… even on an apple!
What makes the phone any different?
Besides, If they wanted to hack the cell tower they would use a laptop…

Anonymous Coward says:

Similar to another argument...

Apple’s logic on this is identical to that of the anti-gun lobby groups. “We need more laws restricting gun ownership!” How about enforcing the laws we already have against murder and assault? Same deal here. Why pass new laws, when we already have laws that would punish a terrorist who attacked our infrastructure?

Cap'n Jack (profile) says:

Re: Similar to another argument...

How is this in any way the same thing? It just seems like you’re trying to get your own agenda pushed here. Anti-gun lobbyists think there should be stricter laws to prevent gun ownership simply because there is a huge correlation between countries with high gun ownership and homocide rates. Countries with less guns have far less homocides. Not only that, but there is very little indication that guns actually protect the majority of people who own them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating anything, but don’t come out with a total strawman here and think you’re clever. Stricter laws against homocides wouldn’t work, because the people who commit them are generally not thinking of the consequences. When you decide to take a man’s life, you’re either being very careful (and then you’re probably not using a gun anyway) or you’re being reckless in which case very few laws will stop you.

In addition, you’ve misunderstood this argument. Apple isn’t asking for any new laws to be passed. They’re asking for a law currently in place not to have any exemptions in this case.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can just imagine the conversation in terrorist cell:

1: So we are ready to blow up the building?
2: yes, we have all the explosives. We should be able to bring down the whole building. Many people will be killed.
1: And guns and ammunition?
2: Enough to kill any police that may interfere, even SWAT teams.
1: Good. I will coordinate you with this iPhone I have. Once I jailbreak it, our calls will be untraceable.
2: NO! Jailbreaking an iPhone is illegal! You will break the DMCA laws! Do you want to get us arrested?

Yeah right…

Anonymous Coward says:

Remind me again why the DMCA is even applicable to iPhone jailbreaking? The iPhone DRM in question is there to limit interoperability, not to prevent copying of a copyrighted work. I thought the court decision in Chamberlain v. Skylink had firmly established that the DMCA did not apply to DRM whose sole purpose was to inhibit interoperation between a device and a competitor’s device.

Besides the cited case, which involved garage door openers and interoperable remotes, there have been similar decisions involving printers and interoperable ink cartridges and other product categories. It seems to me that iPhones and non-AT&T cellular carriers, and iPhones and non-iTMS/non-Apple-App-Store music/app stores, are entirely analogous.

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