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. icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 1 Dec 2010 @ 11:52am

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

    Just a quick refresh: Value and price are not the same.

    I liked the Hurt Locker. There are a lot of things I value much more than a viewing of the Hurt Locker, for example, a hug from my kids. And yet, the price I pay for the hug is zero.

    Are you saying I'm ripping off my kids? It seems like you're arguing that if I get value from something, I should pay for it. That there will be no more hugs if I don't, and that I'm getting hugs on someone else's tab. Hugs are free, though. Are you starting to understand how value and price are not the same? Do you value air? How much are you paying to breathe right now? Value of air is very high, price is free.

    Basically, things in abundant supply become free. This is the economics law of supply and demand. With digital copies a technical reality, the supply of the content is abundant. In a free market, price drops to zero. Value does not. This economic reality offers challenges to the existing media business models. So in this battle between economics and 100 year old business models, which do you think will eventually prevail?

    The laws of economics or the business models for media?

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