The Freedomless iPhone
In declaring Jail-breaking illegal, Apple pragmatically slammed the door on reverse-engineering. In some ways it makes sense. They have been actively pursuing patents to stifle any innovation set forth by their rivals since the days of Microsoft’s DOS. Now, Apple are trying to copyright all aspects of the iPhone’s user interface. They have been successful in the past, powering past other moguls such as Xerox, Apple Corp (the Beatles), eMachines and Creative (maker of the Zen line of portable audio players) among others. Legally, they are a virtual mother goose: hissing at any passerby while madly winging in their biological and adopted baby iPhone elements. And that is exactly the reason we should be wary: Apple are about all about the ‘i’ as it pertains to ‘me’ – as in Apple.
A recent patent entitled, In the matter of Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies, reveals Apple singling out the do-badders (Jailbreakers) among their customers and the vigilant Electronic Frontiers Foundation who have pioneered consumer rights in the internet age as far back as 1990. In case, you don’t have 14 hours and a layover in which to read the copyright, let me paraphrase:
Eff you PwnageTool. Eff you EFF. Eff you guile-filled iPhone users who don’t see your investment our way!
In the copyright, Apple claim that the use of Jailbreaked iPhones is a major cause for Apple’s support department to be “flooded with calls” which could well be true, but neglects to address the fact that the iPhone OS itself is till not stable by any computing definition. Those calls could be stemming from an instability created by Jailbreaking, but just as easily could be the product of a malfunction in the native OS.
Furthermore, the iPhone is noted by Apple itself as a computer:
The iPhone firmware is not itself a product; it is a component of the iPhone mobile computing product.
Here is a question: If Apple ever get the legal stranglehold they need to shut down the Jailbreak scene, would it be precedence enough to turn the Mac (also a computing product) into a corporate-only pay to play device? The situation we face is that Apple as a corporation are legally trying to force users to peruse their computing products in an Apple-approved way. Without wading past the shallows, it is not hard to feel Apple’s heavy undertow. If this were a political commentary (which most assuredly it is not), I would condemn Apple of tyrannical practices. In the digital world on a computing device whose core is open-source, we are in a totalitarian state.
There is the argument that the iPhone and its OS are properties of Apple and that it is cheating Apple to Jailbreak and that Apple are legally entitled to dictate their intended use of the iPhone. On the shelf, the iPhone as with any phone is the product of the manufacturer and the seller. When bought, they money paid by the purchaser should ensure a fair trade of product for service. That is true. It is also true that Apple wrote MAC OSX and the iPhone’s version of OSX. It is also true that Apple, in all their efforts to stop hackers from opening doors into OSX, are unable to stop exploits from occurring. The first Jailbreak was done by an embarrassing TIFF error which opened the OS. Had it not been for the hackers who patched the vulnerability first, Apple may have waited far longer to fix its error.
Whether or not Apple lock down the iPhone, exploits will come. Trying to destroy community projects such as PwnageTool shows lack of understanding even towards their own definition of the project. I have never used a computing device that is based on an either an open or closed source OS that disallowed community development independent of main distribution channels.
Suffice to say: decisions by Apple to copyright everything in order to ‘protect’ intellectual property are going to hurt them in the long run and alienate all but the most novice of computer users. As community and cooperation go the way of Snowball we will have less and less support for truly innovative apps such as the video recorders apps that are only available via Jailbreak because big brother told us that we cannot use our computing devices for anything other than farting, gaming, YouTube and mild porn.