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
    J Doe, 3 Dec 2010 @ 10:59am

    Re: sorry, disagree.

    What gives them the right to "plainly state[] you may not resell the phone. It plainly states that you may not modify this product." Who cares what they say. That is the point here. You are free to take advantage of a bad business model. You should and must be free to take advantage of a bad business model.

    You can say anything you want. But it only has teeth if it is backed up by some authority.

    In this case the authority has stated customers may do what they want with their phones concerning altering the software after purchase.

    Besides, again, as sam pointed out above, this is not a contractual law case. It is a DMCA case.

    On note only related indirectly to the case in this post:

    In my opinion there is already too much protection for bad business models. Everything must return to equilibrium. A market force (any force, any system)can only be kept at bay for so long. Either companies ebb and flow to the demands of their customers, or they are rigid and unchanging in the face of progress. The later hinders progress, and ultimately hinders the profits that could be made by said companies. The later will eventually return to the former, either little by little day by day keeping the balance close, or violently and all at once after being pent up and manipulated by some perversion, thrown so far out of balance that unpredictable things happen.

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