Don’t jailbreak your phone or go to jail

If you pay full price for a smartphone, it would be assumed that you could do what you want to it, but as of Saturday, Jan. 26, the simple task of “jail breaking” your phone has become illegal.

Jail breaking your phone is the action of ‘breaking’ any limitations made by the phone’s carrier. The action allows you to do anything from customizing the look of your phone, installing apps (not provided by the app store) and adding ringtones. It even includes unlocking your phone to use it with a different carrier. Even if you wanted to drop your phone off a building, you paid for it so that should be your right, but now there could be serious consequences.

The ruling made by The Library of Congress under the Digital Millennium Act, decided that firmware inside each smartphone is copyrighted by the phone’s maker, which means you must have permission to use it in any way that is not strictly authorized by the company. The law was made back in Oct., but allowed a 90 day window before becoming enforced. The ruling is made to serve the interest of a few companies, but creates barriers for consumers.

First time offenders could spend up to five years in jail, owe a $2,500 fine-or both. If repeated, you could face double those penalties. Those consequences depend on the company. Apple says that bypassing their software violates their “chain of trust” and screws up their “ecosystem.” Apple’s intentions are just to keep the revenue from software sales.

The question becomes who really owns your phone? If you pay the price for a smartphone you should be able to do what you want with it. Once it’s out of the company’s hands, they shouldn’t have the right to tell you what you can and can’t do to it. The phone ultimately belongs to you, and the companies are taking that freedom away.

This new law takes away a lot of the freedom imposed on smartphone users, and only benefits their companies. It is still possible to purchase unlocked phones at full price if they are not under any carrier’s contract, but it is more expensive because locked phones are supported by the carrier.

Jail breaking may not seem harmless anymore, considering it’s harsh consequences. The right as consumers to change software on your phone is now threatened by your phone’s carriers. Despite having paid for your smartphone to belong to you, there is now an added responsibility left to consumers, to check their mobile carriers before trying to change any software provided on your phone.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Parkway School District.