August 28, 2007

Why Apple Can't Stop iPhone Hackers

AT&T and Apple may face an uphill battle prosecuting hackers that untether the iPhone from the AT&T wireless network. Business Week reports.

"Much is at stake. AT&T has been hoping that as the exclusive provider of the iPhone, it will see a surge in new customers and monthly service charges of at least $60 from each one. Apple is supposed to get a cut of the revenues.

If iPhones are unlocked, they can be used on the wireless networks of rivals like T-Mobile USA—and AT&T gets zippo.

So will Apple and AT&T's legal action deter hackers? Hardly. Individual users are already allowed to unlock their own phones under an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that the U.S. Copyright Office issued last November. The exemption, in force for three years, applies to "computer programs…that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network."

What's less clear is whether companies and hackers can legally unlock the phones and then sell them to others, or sell unlocking software. "The law here is unclear," says Jonathan Kramer, founder of Kramer Telecom Law Firm in Los Angeles. "There just isn't any case law in this area for us to figure out how it plays out."

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