Okay, so on Thursday, the U.S. Copyright Office made a call that I've been wanting someone to make on some subject pretty much ever since Apple launched its iTunes Store in 2003. Their badass ruling was that no, Steve, jailbreaking an iPhone is not illegal. Other rulings guarantee--and the Wired article linked above says "give," but I'm going with "guarantee," and I'll go into that below--the right to copy videogames for the purpose of researching the security measures and turning your ebook into an electronic audiobook.
Here's the reason I think the ruling is a long time in coming (still has a ways to go), and the reason I used "guarantee" instead of "give": It's my stuff, and I should already have the right to do what I want with it. If I'm not using it to break the law, why do you care what I do with it for my own amusement? If I pay you money for a song on iTunes, why does it matter how many of my own computers I put it on? It's my song. If I want to have an ebook on my phone and my laptop, why the hell not? It's my ebook. It's like telling me I can read my paperback on the subway but not on a plane. It's my book, and if you didn't want me to read it where I want to, you shouldn't have sold it to me.
If your concern is that I'm going to break copyright by sharing it with someone else, sure--find a way to keep me from doing that. Do a little bit of hard work, break a little bit of a sweat, to crack down on that. But don't keep me from ripping a DVD to my own hard drive or putting an mp4 on my own cell phone because some people do that and then break the law. Punish me for a crime I haven't even committed, and you may well lose my business, iTunes, who DRMs your content while Amazon is happy to sell me mp3s that I can do with as I please.
I, of course, don't have an iPhone; I'm all-Android, so I have a lot more freedom as to which apps and other content I want to put on my phone. And that's as it should be. If I've dropped a metric assload of money on your product, don't tell me that I can't play with it as I see fit. If I choose to turn it off and never use it, that's my call, and if I choose to drive over it with my car, that's my call, and if I choose to hack it? My call. It's my thing.
Apple says that legality notwithstanding, jailbreaking an iPhone voids the warranty. And why not? They shouldn't have to pay for your screwup. Android 2.2 has a feature that bricks the phone if you try to hack it, and you know what? That's fine. I'm free to try to hack it, at the risk of it becoming useless. Same thing with my car--I try to fix it, I screw it up instead, it's my fault and my problem. But Volkswagen doesn't get to come and arrest me just for popping the hood, and neither should Steve Jobs.
So if I spend this evening burning all of my iTunes music to CD and ripping it back to mp3, whilst scanning all of my paperback to my hard drive to have in case something happens to them, whilst recording The Big Bang Theory to DVR, kiss my ass, Steve Jobs, and I hope your turtleneck gives you a rash.
P.S. Don't forget to click through to the article for a handy list of the next rulings on the Copyright Office's list, I'm sure of it. Highlights include "downloading movies for "bad movie night," provided that at least three cups of popcorn are thrown at the screen over the course of the showing."
What rulings would you like to see from the Copyright Office? I'd personally like to be able to download all those mp3s I had that got eaten when my iTunes crashed, Steve Jobs. Your suggestions in comments. Oh, and your feelings on DRM and property rights and whatever.