Jailbreaking Phones Lands A Guy In... Jail!

from the dmca-exemptions-be-damned dept

You may remember, back in 2006, one of the DMCA "exemptions" granted by the Librarian of Congress was for jailbreaking or unlocking mobile phones, for the purpose of moving them to a different carrier. This move was most seriously fought by one company: Tracfone, which offers prepaid phones at a steep discount. Its business model only works if you can't jailbreak phones -- but copyright law was never about protecting one company's bad business model. Tracfone has even claimed that allowing such jailbreaking is a matter of national security. What they really mean is that it's a matter of protecting their business model.

Tracfone actually sued the Librarian of Congress for allowing jailbreaking but, in 2007, quietly dropped the lawsuit because it found that courts were simply ignoring the exemption. Instead, Tracfone just kept suing people for jailbreaking and many caved and settled. What was really troubling though, was that people were being put in jail for this. Now, in the first trial involving such a case, a guy (who has already spent over a year in jail for unlocking phones) has been found guilty of violating the DMCA.

This is according to a press release put out by the lawyers representing Tracfone and they sort of bury the key point: the guy pled guilty. So it's not as if a court judged the overall situation on the merits. But what's scary is that this seems to clearly go against the very exemption the Librarian of Congress made for jailbreaking phones. And we're not even talking about a civil copyright complaint here, but a criminal one... for doing something that the Librarian of Congress has already said is legal.

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, jailbreaking, phones, unlocking
Companies: tracfone


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  1. identicon
    darryl, 30 Nov 2010 @ 4:12pm

    From the 'im sure he had lots of fun there' dept..

    Breaks the law, goes to jail,

    Headline:

    Jailbreaker goes to jail, but fails to break out.

    As for pleading guilty, what choice did he have, he pled guilty to jailbeaking the phone..

    Are you contending Mike, that he should of pled innocent, and claimed that he did not jailbreak the phone.

    Obviouly it is clear that is what he did, and it was done with intent.

    A guilty plea, will generally give you a lighter sentence, he did not plee out either.

    So the prosocution had a very strong case against him..

    And again, he broke the rules, he admitted that he broke the law, he went to jail, and im sure he had lots of fun while there too..

    Maybe, in the future, some (only smart) people will think before they jailbreak a phone, steal copyright etc that if they do that they can end up on jail, or paying huge fines.

    It's happening all the time, it just has not happend to you yet.

    Clearly the authorities, are gaining ground, every day you are saying how you are losing the battle, (you lost the war).

    Yet, everyday, you continue to claim some form of victory.

    If you think illegal filesharing, hacking, jailbreaking is becoming more popular and not less so.. I think you are wrong.

    Mike how would you feel, if by what you say here on techdirt, you 'incited' someone to start file sharing, or jailbreaking phones, or breaking the law..

    And that person was convicted, and put in prison, How would you feel Mike if he did that based on your statements saying it is allright to do these things. and to break the law. ?

    Its ok for you I guess, but he is in prison, and he is probably learning a few new things, he was not expecting.

    Yes, the US prison system, now that is somewhere you really want to spend some time.. LOL..

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