Mon, Aug 27th 2007 11:29am
There were several reports last week that the operator lock on the iPhone had been broken, meaning that people might be able to use the device with service from a company other than AT&T. The first to emerge was from a New Jersey teenager, who came up with a complex method involving soldering and software; then two separate companies later said they had software-only unlocking methods. To be sure, these unlocking methods and services will only ever appeal to a small number of users, as most general consumers won't really care, or won't want to go to the trouble. With that in mind, it really doesn't seem like AT&T has much at stake financially, but that apparently hasn't stopped its lawyers from threatening one of the software providers. The company claims it got a call from a law firm representing the company, tossing around things like copyright infringement and "illegal software dissemination" in what appears to be an attempt at intimidating the company to keep them from releasing the software (particularly since the DMCA doesn't cover phone unlocking). It's worth reiterating that these are supposedly AT&T's lawyers, not Apple's -- but it's not clear what standing AT&T would have to sue, making this look like little more than a SLAPP situation. Apple's remained quiet on the matter, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the company close the loophole or re-lock the phones with one of its software updates, since it has a financial stake in iPhone buyers activating and using their phones on AT&T thanks to its revenue-sharing deal with the operator. Of course, it could take the more enlightened view that it doesn't want to frustrate and annoy the customers who would go to the trouble of unlocking their iPhones -- but if it were going to do that, it wouldn't have locked the device to AT&T in the first place.
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