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Can Apple + AT&T Shut Down iPhone Unlockers?

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the cell-phone-contracts-are-not-copyrighted dept.

The Courts 318

aalobode writes "Do Apple and AT&T have the legal right to stop hackers from selling unlocked iPhones? Under their terms, only AT&T may sell iPhones, and Apple gets a commission. When unlocked iPhones are used on other providers' networks, AT&T and hence Apple get nothing beyond what they earned on the initial sale of the hardware. Can they prohibit unlocking? Reselling? The article in Businessweek gives the for and against arguments, but leans toward the view that the hackers may have the law on their side for once."

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Heres what the BBC says: (4, Informative)

BigBadBus (653823) | about 7 years ago | (#20387091)

Re:Heres what the BBC says: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387527)

Dropping the apostrophe in the subject helped me get first post you slashbot users!

hax! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387097)

yay hackers!
yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

This time, boo hackers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387771)

If Steve doesn't want you to unlock the phone, then, by God, don't unlock the phone!

No $#%!, Sherlock (3, Funny)

conspirator57 (1123519) | about 7 years ago | (#20387127)

I bought a computer and have the right to modify it and subsequently turn around and sell it? Amazing!

What will I do with this new-found freedom? ...the same thing we do every night, Stimpy: try to take over the world!

Stimpy? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387273)

The Brain: Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Pinky: I think so, Brain, but can the Gummi Worms really live in peace with the Marshmallow Chicks?

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387279)

Its Pinky not Stimpy, but both are great cartoons

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (3, Funny)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 7 years ago | (#20387677)

It's Stimpy and the Brain
It's Stimpy and the Brain
One's an eediot and the other's a rodent!

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (3, Interesting)

Drakin020 (980931) | about 7 years ago | (#20387371)

But do you have the right to buy a computer with Windows installed...Modify Windows to work the way you want it to (Lets say remove DRM features) and re-sell it?

I think not.

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (0)

Techogeek (1148745) | about 7 years ago | (#20387473)

LOL

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (2, Interesting)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | about 7 years ago | (#20387583)

I bought a computer and have the right to modify it and subsequently turn around and sell it? Amazing!

What will I do with this new-found freedom? ...the same thing we do every night, Stimpy: try to take over the world!
The issue isn't necessarily as simple as that. While I do think the DMCA is mostly crap to begin with, it's what the country is currently abiding by so it's what we have to look at.
FTA:

Experts believe that AT&T and Apple will point to the DMCA's section 1201, stating that "no person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title."
Apple did take technological measures to assure their business agreement with AT&T was fulfilled and they do have technological measures to assure their device is not tampered with so there is actually quite a bit of room on Apple and AT&T's side for debate.

The article does make a good point though that this is similar to car stereo manufacturers purposely producing stereos that would only work with their cars and preventing others from making such stereos. Because the carmaker was the only manufacturer of the stereo, they could charge whatever they wanted because of their forced monopoly in the market.

The case is similar because of the control circumvention, but one point the article did not point out is that case is also very different because there is no forced monopoly.

The car was the initial base cost and the stereo (when it breaks or needs replacement) was an uncompetitive and forced monopoly. In the case of AT&T, the iPhone is the base cost, but you still are given competitive rates. If AT&T began charging much more than usual rates strictly for iPhone customers, then the case would be identical, but because of other offerings it does not produce the same monopoly. If this were any other phone but the iPhone with network circumvention nobody would even care (I know because almost all phones are only made to run on one network.) Some may also argue this to be a bad business decision and plan to "liberate Apple from themselves" by hacking the iPhone, but if they made a bad decision, the best way to let them know is to not invest in their product which is already being done looking at iPhone sales.

Nevertheless, I think this case may be more of a nail-biter than most slashdotters would like to think.

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (1)

phoenixwade (997892) | about 7 years ago | (#20387773)

The article does make a good point though that this is similar to car stereo manufacturers purposely producing stereos that would only work with their cars and preventing others from making such stereos. Because the carmaker was the only manufacturer of the stereo, they could charge whatever they wanted because of their forced monopoly in the market.

The case is similar because of the control circumvention, but one point the article did not point out is that case is also very different because there is no forced monopoly.

The car was the initial base cost and the stereo (when it breaks or needs replacement) was an uncompetitive and forced monopoly. In the case of AT&T, the iPhone is the base cost, but you still are given competitive rates. If AT&T began charging much more than usual rates strictly for iPhone customers, then the case would be identical, but because of other offerings it does not produce the same monopoly. If this were any other phone but the iPhone with network circumvention nobody would even care (I know because almost all phones are only made to run on one network.) Some may also argue this to be a bad business decision and plan to "liberate Apple from themselves" by hacking the iPhone, but if they made a bad decision, the best way to let them know is to not invest in their product which is already being done looking at iPhone sales.

Nevertheless, I think this case may be more of a nail-biter than most slashdotters would like to think.
I don't think this case will actually be prosecuted. I think a cease and desist letter or three would be sent, perhaps even a website take down demand but nothing much beyond that. It seems to me that there is a precedent for modification here that would polarize a whole lot more than just locked down cell phones or related technology's. What about GM telling me I can't pimp my ride? What about any other modification that expands or changes a product from the original manufacturers intention.

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | about 7 years ago | (#20387993)

Nah, not even a website takedown - this sort of thing is allowed due to the clause about being able to violate the DMCA for interop.

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 7 years ago | (#20387787)

What copyright is being infringed by making calls on another network? Why does the DMCA have anything to say about soldering an desoldering to achieve network independence?

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387623)

You mean Pinky, not Stimpy!

Go watch more Animaniacs because JOO F41L 1T!

Re:No $#%!, Sherlock (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387643)

If you were going for the animaniacs reference, the names are Pinky and The Brain. :P

Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387145)

At&t and Apple not getting money for unlocked Iphones? Yeah, that's not going to fly.

Re:Yeah (0, Troll)

megaditto (982598) | about 7 years ago | (#20387301)

Apple is already laughing all the way to the bank, selling phones that cost $200 to produce for triple that price.

Re:Yeah (1)

catbutt (469582) | about 7 years ago | (#20387569)

They make a much better margin selling OS X. They sell it for over $100, and it costs about $1.50 to make the cd's and packaging. That's like 70 times what it costs to make!

Because, of course, the cost of development shouldn't be considered at all.

Re:Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387649)

Or the lack of competition.

But, of course, OpenMoko to the rescue! I'm sure Apple is quaking right now, knowing that next month OpenMoko is due to be released to all 6 people who will actually buy one.

Re:Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387971)

The OpenMoko is much better than the iPhone. I mean, just look at all the extra plastic you get round the screen! I particularly like the completely fucking useless hole in it. There's nothing I like more than pointless voids taking up extra space in my pockets.

Re:Yeah (1)

nonsequitor (893813) | about 7 years ago | (#20387589)

Apple is already laughing all the way to the bank, selling phones that cost $200 to produce for triple that price.
And just how many do they have to sell before turning a profit? R&D costs for the device were probably in the millions, the only time when you get a company selling something at cost is when other companies pay licensing and royalties for working with the device, like game consoles.

Re:Yeah (1)

Trillan (597339) | about 7 years ago | (#20387681)

Proof?

And I don't mean someone's analysis of the parts. I mean actual proof that there's no cost in the design, and price-per-unit is the only cost, and that Apple's acknowledged that the parts come to $200.

Otherwise, you're speculating.

Re:Yeah (1)

rizzo420 (136707) | about 7 years ago | (#20387457)

that's not true though. you still have to buy an iphone, unless you steal it. so apple is still getting their money. it's AT&T that's isn't making money.

Re:Yeah (2, Interesting)

notthe9 (800486) | about 7 years ago | (#20387679)

We don't know for sure what Apple and AT&T's agreement is, I don't think. It's not necessarily as simple as Apple gets $500 and AT&T gets $60/month.

Re:Yeah (1)

Shagg (99693) | about 7 years ago | (#20387701)

Unless AT&T is paying Apple in order to be the exclusive carrier for the iphone. I don't know if they are doing that, but it seems reasonable. If unlocking the iphone becomes mainstream enough, AT&T may balk at paying Apple for the exclusive license.

Re:Yeah (4, Informative)

Selivanow (82869) | about 7 years ago | (#20387551)

Usually when you "buy" a phone (in the US at least) you are getting a discount in exchange for a lengthy contract. If you don't want the contract you buy the phone outright and can do anything you want with it. This is the same issue that the auto industry had at one point. Manufacturers did not want 3-party parts sold and didn't want people to fix their own vehicles. The auto industry was pretty much shot down. Unless you are breaking a law, ie: modifying a phone to output a stronger signal, you can do as you please with any item you own. That is not to say that you can not be held liable if you do something to an item you own and it ends up damaging someone else's property or another person.

Re:Yeah (1)

1729 (581437) | about 7 years ago | (#20388011)

Usually when you "buy" a phone (in the US at least) you are getting a discount in exchange for a lengthy contract. If you don't want the contract you buy the phone outright and can do anything you want with it.

We're talking about the iPhone, here. The iPhone is not subsidized by AT&T, but the 2-year contract is still mandatory.

the DMCA finally does something good (3, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | about 7 years ago | (#20387149)

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.
ha ha

Re:the DMCA finally does something good (4, Informative)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about 7 years ago | (#20387733)

It isn't really the DMCA that's doing it. If the DMCA never existed, you would still be allowed to unlock the phone. This is something that someone had to decide that the DMCA didn't cover.

"only AT&T may sell iPhones" (5, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | about 7 years ago | (#20387157)

only AT&T may sell iPhones

Wrong. Apple sells iPhones (through their website and retail locations). The phone isn't activated at the time of sale (it's done at home with iTunes). AT&T announced 146k activations when Apple announced 270k iphones sold. You do the math.

Re:"only AT&T may sell iPhones" (2, Insightful)

conspirator57 (1123519) | about 7 years ago | (#20387191)

I agree with you, but Apple's figures probably include inventory sold to AT&T and people buying them for use on WLANs, as toys, etc.

Re:"only AT&T may sell iPhones" (5, Funny)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about 7 years ago | (#20387227)

You do the math.

(sqrt(270000) * 146000) / pi = 24148205.619474491768596100626108

Re:"only AT&T may sell iPhones" (4, Insightful)

deander2 (26173) | about 7 years ago | (#20387697)

haha....omg, who are the morons who moderated this informative? =p

Re:"only AT&T may sell iPhones" (1)

veganboyjosh (896761) | about 7 years ago | (#20387729)

I did the math.

24148205.619474491768596100626108 / pi = 7686612.58227964

Re:"only AT&T may sell iPhones" (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387835)

The question:

Form a square with every iPhone sold and mark the phones that are in the first row. Make a phone call from every marked iPhone to every activated iPhone. Place the phone bills in a circle, what is the circle's diameter?

Re:"only AT&T may sell iPhones" (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 7 years ago | (#20387899)

The question:

Form a square with every iPhone sold and mark the phones that are in the first row. Make a phone call from every marked iPhone to every activated iPhone. Place the phone bills in a circle, what is the circle's diameter?


If that is the question, then the answer is wrong. You cannot place a call to your own phone.

Push comes to shove. . . (2, Insightful)

TimmyDee (713324) | about 7 years ago | (#20387205)

If the group that has the real iPhone unlocking software does get hit with a legit lawsuit and has to cease and desist, here's to hoping they release it for free along with the source. What's to say they can't? At that point, they aren't selling something. Maybe they could take donations? IANAL, but I think such a move would be feasible.

Here's an interesting thought.... (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | about 7 years ago | (#20387397)

Oh look, someone has dropped his iPhone in this box! And they left a note with a name and phone number!

(Some time later)...

"Do you have the info?"
"The info is right here in this envelope, it will cost you $150."

On the envelope:

(There's a key for a locker, and a paper.

On the paper:

"Your unlocked iPhone is in locker #4335 on building XYZ, the combination for the lock is 45-34-27-2."

(Later, on the building:

"Hey, look, the iPhone i had accidentally lost! How kind of them!"

(Is this actually legal, or is there a law against it?)

Re:Here's an interesting thought.... (1)

Longtime_Lurker_Aces (1008565) | about 7 years ago | (#20387721)

Probably illegal but IANAL.

You can't sell a (tax-free) $3,000 banana that comes with a "free" plasma tv to avoid paying taxes on the tv sale, I assume similar rules would apply here as you're just wink-wink nudge-nudging to get around what is really a payment for the service.

No wonder... (1)

markov_chain (202465) | about 7 years ago | (#20387231)

...Apple insisted on the $600 price tag!

a thought (4, Interesting)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20387241)

Collecting bonus money from activations isn't really in Apple's business model. So why should they even bother with trying to hault cracking of the iPhone? The product has already been sold. Apple made their official dollar off of it. Their interests should really die there. It's not like crackers are replacing the Apple components of the software; just defeating the AT&T parts.

Here's an article that better explains my point of view [com.com] because I'm an ineloquent rambling idiot.

Re:a thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387535)

apple is under the false impression that emulating microsoft business tactics will earn them a bigger market share. they are disasterously wrong; it will only dig them a nice grave.

Re:a thought (1)

CheddarHead (811916) | about 7 years ago | (#20387917)

Well because AT&T presumably payed a boat-load of money to Apple to be the exclusive carrier for the iphone. If they can't recover that investment because the phone are being hacked and used at other carriers, and if they feel that Apple isn't doing enough to prevent this, then they will probably sue Apple to get some or all that money back.

That's why we can't have nice things. (3, Insightful)

mcmonkey (96054) | about 7 years ago | (#20387257)

Not for nothing, but when the next gen iPhone comes out and it's store activation only and not home activation, you'll know why.

That's why we can't have nice thoughts. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387509)

It's worse than that. Not only do we not have nice things. We don't even know what we're missing to begin with.

Think about it carefully. Imagine a world were the "gimme,gimme,gimme" mentality doesn't exist. Took a bit of work didn't it? Sacrificing future gain for instant-gratification almost makes one proud to be human.

Good because it hurts that insufferable Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387269)

They clearly have a loss leader product that they intend to make profit from the kickbacks from AT&T.

A hacked iPhone lets me use their technology while simultaneously hurting their bottom line.

Kudos to the hackers.

I guess it comes down to (4, Insightful)

JustNiz (692889) | about 7 years ago | (#20387275)

I guess it comes down to who owns the phone.

If when you buy an iPhone you are actually buying the ownership to the phone, you can do what the hell you like to it as its yours.

but...

If Apple are just selling a licence to use the iPhone (kinda like what Microsoft do with Windows) rather than actually selling the ownership of the iPhone itself, then they could legally and justifiably require you not to unlock it as they still own it.

Re:I guess it comes down to (3, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | about 7 years ago | (#20387653)

I don't think they can do that, though. When you buy software, you are generally paying for the "right to use" the content on the media. You're allowed to microwave the disc, throw it out the window, make artwork out of it... you're just subject to copyright rules about the contents.

What you're looking for is if the end user agreement prohibits modifying or loading new software. I'm sure it prohibits modifying software, but if it's just a matter of a simple hardware hack and ADDITIONAL software, I don't see how there can be a legal standing against.

Probably the reason is because I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me precedence is on our side.

Re:I guess it comes down to (1)

Techogeek (1148745) | about 7 years ago | (#20387901)

I don't and probably never will own an IPhone but, knowing that Apple is a hardware developer, I would tend to believe that if you buy an IPhone, you are outright buying it and the ownership rights to it as well. If that were not the case, that would mean once the service is terminated, you must hand over your IPhone (that you paid out the rear for) back to either AT&T or Apple. I certainly don't think AT&T nor Apple will want to deal with taking people's used equipment; they don't with their computers, why would they with their IPhones?

Do I own it or not (4, Insightful)

backslashdot (95548) | about 7 years ago | (#20387281)

If it's illegal to unlock the phone, that means I dont own it. Am I leasing it? How the hell else is it possible for me to outright purcahse something and not be able to do whetever the hell i want with it (besides to commit something that is already a crime obviously -like throwing it at someone).

If I buy a t-shirt can they make it illegal for me to use it as a rag?

Is it illegal to color the iphone with a marker? Is it illegal to open up the iphone and melt it down? Is it illegal to take the battery out of the iphone and use the large battery in a hobby RC car project? If it is, it damn well shouldn't be.

Re:Do I own it or not - analogy (1)

backslashdot (95548) | about 7 years ago | (#20387337)

Can I sell you shirt that let's you get into a club, and then make legally prevent you from walking into other clubs with that same shirt? Furthermore, can I legally prevent you from coloring stuff on the phone (the club owner can prevent u coming in with a funny colored shirt though)?

Re:Do I own it or not (3, Funny)

MarkovianChained (1143957) | about 7 years ago | (#20387367)

"Is it illegal to open up the iphone and melt it down?" Is it illegal to blend it [willitblend.com] ? :)

Re:Do I own it or not (1)

Techogeek (1148745) | about 7 years ago | (#20387967)

Ooohh, you beat me *By That Much* to the Blend It video!

Re:Do I own it or not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387505)

You own the phone, but only have a license for the software it contains. Duh.

Good, so I can delete the software (1)

backslashdot (95548) | about 7 years ago | (#20387789)

I am under no legal obligation to use the software, no did I sign any contract forcing me to (pre-activation). So I oughta be able to install my own on there. Furthermore it's possible to modify the hardware to skip over running the software, duh.

Simple Echnomics... (2, Informative)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 years ago | (#20387297)

It is simple economics. The full-price of the iPhone (The physical cost of the phone+the hidden cost of being stuck to AT&T, in terms of rates, service availability, contracts...) is higher then the economical efficiency point. So what happens is black market activities. Hacking the phone to work on whatever carrier they want, so they get a better value from the phone. Now is it legal, I would think so yes Apple and AT&T are loosing money from the deal but that is the cost of doing business realizing that people are not going to play by your rules all the time.

Re:Simple Echnomics... (2, Insightful)

cowscows (103644) | about 7 years ago | (#20387499)

I think it's less about economics and more about technically inclined people enjoying one of their hobbies, messing around with technology. There's just a lot more news bits about this because of the hype that Apple and the iPhone have been through.

Just about every mobile phone ever made has probably had at least a few geeks pull it apart to tinker on the insides, you just didn't hear about it unless you went looking for the information. But in the case of the iPhone, Apple (and others) have already done the advertising for the iphone hacks, it tagged along with the advertising for the iphone itself.

While I have no doubt that you can find anecdotal evidence of people who would not have purchased an iPhone under AT&T now considering one, I would be very surprised if those people constitute a number that would make up a noticeable percentage of the iPhones out on the street.

Re:Simple Echnomics... not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387657)

I don't think it's about economics, but supply and demand. People want a supply of iPhones, but demand it work in their network of choice. There's no assurance that their network is costlier or cheaper than AT&T, but they don't want switch providers for the privilege of having an iPhone.

Re:Simple Echnomics... not (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 7 years ago | (#20387895)

Umm.... Supply and Demand are the key elements in economics. The bulk of economic theory is Supply and Demand.

Re:Simple Echnomics... (1)

king-manic (409855) | about 7 years ago | (#20387991)

Now is it legal, I would think so yes Apple and AT&T are loosing money from the deal but that is the cost of doing business realizing that people are not going to play by your rules all the time.

If you bought it without a 3yr AT&T deal then At&T lost a potential customer but Apple lost nothing. If you bought it with a 3yr deal then AT&T and apple have lost nothing. AT&T may attempt to extort Apple to lock them down better or differently or per sue unlockers individually but Apple is in a win - win situation.

Looking forward to an easy unlocker (1)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | about 7 years ago | (#20387311)

I was going to buy an iPhone so I'd be able to eliminate one of the devices I tote around with me (an ipod). Unfortunately, I do a lot of traveling to China and not having the ability to pop in a local SIMcard was a deal breaker for me. Paying ATT's outrageous international roaming charges wasn't an option. So, if the unlocker becomes available, I'll purchase one of these phones. If not, I'll just wait for one of the Chinese knockoffs to appear at my local shopping mall in Beijing. I'm sure they're already available, but I haven't gotten around to looking for one yet.

Cheers,

Re:Looking forward to an easy unlocker (2, Informative)

mzs (595629) | about 7 years ago | (#20387459)

Re:Looking forward to an easy unlocker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387831)

That is, at most, a one off prototype. At worst it is a guess at what kind of specs an iPhone clone might have in theory if someone might be able to make one, alongside an artists rendition of such a thing.

Show me where I can actually buy one.

Re:Looking forward to an easy unlocker (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 7 years ago | (#20387769)

If not, I'll just wait for one of the Chinese knockoffs to appear at my local shopping mall in Beijing.
What constitutes a "proper" knock-off?

They've done blatant ripoffs of the Nintendo DS [youtube.com] and the PSP [youtube.com] . I'd assume you're looking for a higher quality "clone" than those things :-)

Warranty (3, Interesting)

sgauss (639539) | about 7 years ago | (#20387315)

Since unlocking involves some soldering and such, at least according to the account I've heard, clearly it violates the warranty. And don't forget, the iPhone has a soldered in battery; you're supposed to send the phone in after a year to take care of the battery. So, if it breaks or the battery dies, your unlocked iPhone is a very expensive paper-weight.

If you're able to unlock it with a soldering iron (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387571)

Then replacing the battery is easy.

And you probably don't give a rat's ass about an otherwise useless "warranty" anyway.

Re:Warranty (1)

pscottdv (676889) | about 7 years ago | (#20387585)

I would like to meet these "solder savants" who are able to make delicate connections to traces on a circuit board but are somehow unable to solder in a battery.

Re:Warranty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387639)

You are confused. There are at least 4 alternative methods to unlock the jesus-phone. The one getting all the press in the US is the kid with his soldering iron. The one getting the legal news is the Irish company that was about to start selling a software only solution.

Re:Warranty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387781)

comon, if you can afford a $600 phone, you can afford one to go on you after a year.

Apple + AT&T? (2, Interesting)

Nastard (124180) | about 7 years ago | (#20387323)

AT&T, sure, but why the hell would Apple want to stop people from unlocking these?

Re:Apple + AT&T? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387439)

knowing lawyers there's a clause that covers denies, for a time, the ability for Apple to sell, license, or otherwise profit by using another network.

Damn. I wish I was a lawyer.

Re:Apple + AT&T? (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | about 7 years ago | (#20387709)

knowing lawyers there's a clause that covers denies, for a time, the ability for Apple to sell, license, or otherwise profit by using another network.

Yeah...but what if they 'accidentally' make the thing easy to hack, which results in a quadupling of their sales? ;)

Re:Apple + AT&T? (3, Informative)

Selfbain (624722) | about 7 years ago | (#20387699)

They get royalties from AT&T.

What was one of Apple's old ad campaigns? (1)

r_jensen11 (598210) | about 7 years ago | (#20387351)

"Think Different," wasn't it?

Re:What was one of Apple's old ad campaigns? (1)

ConceptJunkie (24823) | about 7 years ago | (#20387565)

Actually, it's "Think Slightly Differently From The Market Leader, But All In Lockstep With Each Other".

For all of Apples faux non-conformity, they are really not very different from companies like Microsoft, except perhaps the fact that they actually make stuff people want. At least Apple continues to earn its single-digit market-share. Microsoft hasn't earned anything in about a decade.

On the other hand, they can litigate and stomp all over users with the best of them.

Re:What was one of Apple's old ad campaigns? (1)

imroy (755) | about 7 years ago | (#20387827)

Microsoft hasn't earned anything in about a decade.

Oh, come on. Toolbars have got to be worth something.

I don't even have to RTFA (1)

s31523 (926314) | about 7 years ago | (#20387363)

The answer is yes. If the answer is no, see the first answer. Seriously, does anyone really think Apple and AT&T are gonna be like, "It's cool, go ahead and resell your hacked iPhone." They will find some way to shut it down, even if it means adding a hardware change to the iPhone.

Re:I don't even have to RTFA (4, Funny)

arodland (127775) | about 7 years ago | (#20387675)

... so they're going to send ninjas with screwdrivers into the streets to steal people's iPhones, make hardware modifications, and then quietly return them?

Hacking iPhone vs Hacking XBox (1)

Applekid (993327) | about 7 years ago | (#20387385)

So the law may allow hackers to unlock iPhones they purchased and use them anywhere in the world. Wow, cool, there are laws that protect the consumer after all!

Hackers also unlock video game consoles with mod chips to play backups of the games they purchased* and play games from anywhere in the world, yet they get raided by the FBI and their international equivalents.

I guess TFS was right to say "for once." Because evidently one law is all we get to protect ourselves from companies happily selling us things that we can't use the way we see fit.

* if you steal, you're a thief and that's another completely different crime, btw.

Copyright Violation != Theft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20387661)

I agree with you on the stealing, and on the implied copyright violation. Both are illegal, but please don't continue the myth that they are one and the same thing, as it actually _weakens_ the argument against copyright violation.

They are _not_ the same crime, anymore than murder and theft are the same thing. It sounds like you've been watching the outright lies they broadcast on the TV, eg. "Piracy is theft". It's just not that simple. Read Title 17.

Matter of owernership (1)

kdougherty (772195) | about 7 years ago | (#20387401)

Logically speaking... wouldn't this just be similar to Microsoft, for example, building a computer and saying you can only use Windows Vista on this machine?

If I purchase a piece of equipment, it becomes mine. If I were to throw my iPhone in the trash, would anyone care? No. If I were to modify my purchased piece of equipment would anyone care? Apparently so... Just as when I purchase a computer I can load any operating system and use any internet service I choose, the same should go for an iPhone, which is another piece of equipment that I can purchase. If one were to hack to the phone, I can see where that would void any warranty, however, how can someone distinguish with laws what you can and cannot do with something you purchased and own? Similar to hacking an Xbox to run emulated software, I paid for it. I can hack it, or I can set it on fire, either way it's mine and I can do what I want with it.

Unlocking is legal (1)

MortenMW (968289) | about 7 years ago | (#20387423)

In Norway (and, I belive all of Europe) unlocking mobile phones is both legal and common. I have done it once on at Nokia to get an almost free phone from one company and then use it in another companies network. Since you own the actual hardware, I don't see why you should not be able to do what you want with it.....

the question really is (2, Insightful)

botkiller (181386) | about 7 years ago | (#20387441)

The question really is not can they, it's _should_ they? They're liable to alienate a lot of potential customers if they start cracking down on everyone. I understand that it's a losing money situation, but they might stand to lose a lot more if they start crying foul left and right about this. Either way, it seems like it'll be hard for someone to immediately get T-mobile service on their hacked iPhone, but I could be wrong - I'm looking forward to the first story of someone who goes into a T-mobile store or thereabouts and requests service for their unlocked iPhone.

Doctrine of First Sale-Nobody Knows The Rules (3, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 7 years ago | (#20387477)

I would say that under Doctrine of First Sale, you can do what you want with it once you own it.

However, manufacturers have managed to prevent you from modding your game console after you own it, or at least prevent other people from selling you mod chips and modding services, so now it's murky.

Wouldn't Ford love to only have you put Genuine Ford Advantage replacement parts in your car? They can't. Nor can they force you to only buy Ford approved gasoline from licensed dealers.

Yet Apple can't prevent you from putting non-iTMS purchased music into your iPod -- although that's probably because you'd never have bought the iPod if you couldn't rip your own albums and play them in it.

So what can, and cannot, Apple and AT&T do here? Besides scaring off potential unlockers, whatever the courts are willing to allow them to get away with. Clearly these days, there is no bright shining line of what's allowed, and what isn't.

Loan your new CD to your friend to listen to and the RIAA probably won't come knocking. Let him get the tracks through KaZaA and you may have an ugly time of it. Nobody knows the real rules any longer!

Isn't it a good thing for Apple? (1)

microbee (682094) | about 7 years ago | (#20387485)

Once iPhone is unlocked, there will be much more customers worldwide to buy it, not just AT&T.

TO boost the initial entrance into the market, Apple chose an exclusive carrier, but I don't think it's a long-term strategy. Isn't unlocked iPhone going to give Apple more revenue and market share? Of course right now it's bound by its contract with AT&T so it could not do so yet, but if someone else does it for Apple, why wouldn't Apple secretly love it?

And so does AT&T have the right to sue?

Mod Chips (2, Insightful)

thomas.galvin (551471) | about 7 years ago | (#20387525)

So why is this legal and mod chips illegal? What's so special about computer hardware when it's got an MS or Sony logo on it, as opposed to an Apple or AT&T logo?

If it's legal (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | about 7 years ago | (#20387559)

How long before I can walk into a T-Mobile shop, and buy an iPhone with a T-Mobile sim and only pay $10 more, and considerably less on the contract.

Can AT&T prevent activation... (1)

Techogeek (1148745) | about 7 years ago | (#20387579)

I don't think it is the question whether or not AT&T can stop hackers from unlocking their IPhones because once the IPhone is purchased, that should give them legal rights to do with it what they want. I think the question should be rather if AT&T can prevent activation of the IPhone on another carrier's service or not.

Why are Phones in US Locked Anyways? (1)

nku (982751) | about 7 years ago | (#20387587)

TFA says,

For one, a case could pave the way to making all wireless networks more open to unlocked phones. In the next five years, 10% to 15% of U.S. wireless users could move to unlocked phones, figures Andrei Jezierski, founder of venture consultancy i2 Partners in New York
Maybe I am too lazy to search this in the past forums, but does anyone know why wireless networks in US offer locked phones by default? I used to use my old Nokia 8210 back in India on both Hutch and Airtel networks just by replacing SIM.

Re:Why are Phones in US Locked Anyways? (2, Informative)

Techogeek (1148745) | about 7 years ago | (#20387753)

Mostly because in the US, the Wireless providers want to prohibit (as best they can) the customer from moving to a different service. So in the long run, if they lock the phones, that forces the customer to have to cough up more money if they want to move to a different wireless provider.

Warranty? (1)

s31523 (926314) | about 7 years ago | (#20387603)

I am all for hacking the iPhone, but if the hackers sell these unlocked phones, are they going to give any sort of warranty on them? I mean, the idea of a kid with a soldering iron making and breaking circuit board connections sounds like the phone might break sometime in the near future. Then what?

considering... (1)

GregPK (991973) | about 7 years ago | (#20387641)

Considering the kind of money that apple profits from the Iphone I don't really see them losing much money either way. But long term reasons state that they do need to do everything they can do maintain maximum profit for this.

practical non-issue (1)

bcrowell (177657) | about 7 years ago | (#20387669)

To me, this seems like an issue that could be an important legal precedent, but that, in practice, should be a non-issue for individual users. Realistically, why should Apple care, considering that this is unlikely ever to get popular? The percentage of people modding their iphones like this is likely to be about as big as the percentage of people buying a mac so they can run Yellow Dog Linux. To make that percentage even smaller, Apple can announce that they refuse to give you support if you modify the phone. I can't imagine that it would be in Apple's or AT&T's best financial interests to spend a lot of money hiring lawyers to sue people under a clearly bogus legal theory, when the number of users involved is going to be infinitesimally small.

There are broader issues that are really important, but they're issues like the fact that the DMCA is a bad law that should be fixed, by removing the anti-circumvention provisions. Another issue is that in the computer, communication, and network industries we have a lot of unhealthy monopolies (MS in operating systems, broadband in some areas), duopolies (broadband in my area), etc. Consumers are always going to get screwed by monopolies and duopolies, and the solution isn't to regulate industries that don't have competition, it's to get rid of the monopolies and duopolies.

Subscription fee (5, Interesting)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | about 7 years ago | (#20387693)

When you sell a mobile phone below cost, you are supposed to make up for the difference in the subscription fees. Which are mandatory to pay in the binding period even if you unlock the phone and use it on another net.

At least that is how it works with GSM phones in Denmark. You can unlock them and switch to another provider legally, but you have to continue to pay the subscription fee for the binding period. This is common, and accepted by all the service providers.

Also: The maximum binding period is six month, providers are obliged to tell the unlock key after that, and all advertisement must include the minimum total cost in the binding period (initial price plus subscription fee for six month) in order to make it easy to compare prices.

Good regulation does wonders to improve the efficiency of a market.

Competition Solves "Problems" (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 7 years ago | (#20387723)

Future new phones certainly have to compete with iPhone's good features, and one of the ways they can do that is to start selling all their new phones unlocked and advertise them as such.

Cell phone companies may not like it, but what it the fear? People pick a cell phone "provider" (I hate the word) because they get the coverage they need & quality of connections or they pick another one. It is always up to the "provider" to be able to compete, so they have to continually improve.

For the user who wants "commodity phones" then pick the all-in-one plan with a free phone from your favorite "provider".

For a user who owns a phone, he can just then do a prepaid plan if he wants to avoid a "provider 2 year plan".

What would happen if the home phone companies started signing every new customer up to a "2 year plan" with a steep bailout clause and penalty? Why should cell phone providers be any different than land lines in this day and age. Well it is obvious that the WDC lobbyists worked hard to get it the way it is now.

property and the information age (1)

drDugan (219551) | about 7 years ago | (#20387731)

property is a convention. we all agree there is some mapping between resources and people (entities) that "own" them. well, most of us agree, except the thieves. in the old way, resources were all physical things, mostly. people traded items for money, and the item went from one owner to another.

increasingly, many companies have found that the common understanding of property does not work very well any more. informaion is more easily copied than transferred - and the recipient has a lesser right usually to use the information purchased than the original owner. hence the world is fighting a lot about copyright.

now the convention of physical item property is getting re-evaluated, for 2 reasons: first, the rules are changing in the information world - so we re-look at the rules for everythign else. and, more importantly, the most interesting physical things are bundled with information to make them work. Since the rules are different in the two worlds - people are confused.

the long term end for humanity will be to scrap the idea of property as we have it now entirely. no one gets exclusive rights to anything. not having a governement own everything (socialism) - but the elimination of the idea of property altogether. by definition, there is enough, and people will be taught and required to conserve. everyone's resource usage will be tracked - and if they do not conserve, they will be ostracized by the all-knowing social nets that "out" them for their bad behavior.

Can't Use DMCA... (3, Insightful)

maz2331 (1104901) | about 7 years ago | (#20387839)

They certainly can't use the DMCA to block the unlocking. This is almost identical to the Lexmark International, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc. case a couple years ago. Basic upshot of that ruling is that DMCA doesn't cover hacking to unlock a device for interoperability and third-party components.

If they try to sue using DMCA, they will almost certainly lose.

Where is the lega retaliation? (1)

prxp (1023979) | about 7 years ago | (#20388003)

One thing TFA isn't accurate about is how ATT and Apple are using their legal powers to retaliate.
Actually I haven't seen any real stories where lwayers were used to intimidate unlockers. George Holtz (GeoHot) even said he wasn't contacted by neither ATT nor Apple.

For all I know, the only case that was mentioned in the media was the one with iphoneunlocking.com that allegedly received a 3am call from some Silicon Valley Law firm in behalf of ATT (A fact that was promptly denied by ATT). What I believe is that iphoneunlocking.com has no unlocking software whatsoever and pulled out that lame excuse to cover up their "free publicity" stunt. Has anyone heard of any real legal actions with regards to these cases from ATT or Apple?

Doesn't make sense (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | about 7 years ago | (#20388005)

Apple has already made their money selling the phones to the hacker.
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