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Jailbreaking Is Not A Crime (jailbreakingisnotacrime.org)
107 points by there on Jan 25, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

This is why geeks should be required to run things past an English major before talking to normal human beings.

If we call a thing "jailbreaking", we're going to be battling negative perceptions forever. We're trying to explain to people who really don't care that they should take time out of their day to help legalize something called "jailbreaking". The RIAA, MPAA and ESA would struggle to dream up a more dubious name if they were embarking on a spin campaign to criminalise it outright.

Why couldn't we have called it "derestricting" or "liberating" or something? Why couldn't we have chosen a positive, all-American sort of name? I know, I know, these are our devices and we're having our freedoms taken from us, so we're totally like POWs, not criminals. We're the good kind of escaped prisoner. Now explain that to my mother in a few short words while Bill O'Reilly accuses you of supporting Al-Qaeda.

For a bunch of geniuses, we do some really dumb things.

Yep. Same thing with "hacking" and "hackathons". Whenever I tell non-techies I'm going to a hackathon they think I'm going to break into someone's network, or something.

We can blame Hollywood and the media for perverting the word hacker, but jailbreaking and the negative connotations it can provoke is our own fault.

Honestly, I think Apple has done a great job of bringing the idea of jailbreaking into the popular lexicon. If you have a good grasp of iOS, you know what jailbreaking is and why Apple shouldn't have the right to stop you.

And honestly, I don't think we could find a better name if we tried. Everyone likes a good jailbreak, especially when the inmate has done nothing wrong.

I'm not sure it's as bad as you think. The cell phone industry and the carriers are the ones who built the jail, and the inmate is you. It is probably worth making sure that nuance is communicated, but it's a powerful image. If you're not a criminal, why are you in jail?

If you're not a criminal, why are you in jail?

But why would you think like that? If, outside of any smartphone connection, someone said they'd "jailbroken" I would think "they were in jail", not "I wonder if they deserved to be there".

If you call yourself a jailbreaker you a describing yourself as an escaped criminal to many people.

  If you're not a criminal, why are you in jail?
And it works in the exact reverse. They think: "I'm not in jail, why are you? Probably because you are a criminal."

> It is probably worth making sure that nuance is communicated

We live in an entirely nuance-free culture. We have an electoral campaign where candidates are being attacked for speaking basic French. Where an electorally significant percentage of the population believe that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 and that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim.

When the US government is unable to successfully impart basic factual knowledge, basing a political campaign on anything with the slightest element of ambiguity or nuance is madness.

The problem is that, to the uninformed, that information is not obvious from the term.

A friend of mine started working at the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View. He was working on a web app with his brother, who was actually in another country.

Shortly thereafter, he gets a very worried call from his brother, saying "We've been hacked!" He saw a lot of traffic in the logs from an IP connected with the word "Hacker" and got a bit panicked.

I'm a Hacker Dojo member, and I can relate. I check into the Dojo on Facebook and I always have a few people who think I'm doing nefarious things like "hacking" people's Facebook account. I've been pretty good about educating people about what hacker's actually do, or at least this hacker so the questions have gone down to a minimum as it seems they're bored with the reality.

Good point. I suggest "unlocking". It's a common term when it comes to switching networks "Oh my contract is up, I want to move to another phone network, but my phone that I paid for is locked!"

Situations like that (moving phone networks) are commonly understood, and you can easily explain how locking is designed not to protect you, but to try to force you to buy a new phone.

> "Oh my contract is up, I want to move to another phone network, but my phone that I paid for is locked!"

Except jailbreaking != sim unlocking.

The rhetorical shift needs to be greater, conjuring up different images than cages and locks. People put locks on things they own, they don't necessarily want to support people who can bypass them. I think things need to go in the direction of "completion" or "empowering"--bad choices themselves but grafting onto that connotation allows you to change the way the argument is structured as well. You are giving yourself a more complete access to your device by jailbreaking, rather than rebelling against an authority.

Since you can already separately unlock and jailbreak phones, that would make matters very confusing.

To some extent, geeks' choice of terminology is a deliberate statement of rebellion against the manipulation of language often seen in politics. In that context, the goal of using names and terms like "jailbreaking," "hacker," "pois0n," etc. is to deflate the knee-jerk emotional reaction people have to the trigger words used by the media.

Well, it doesn't work. These 'people' that they are trying to convince still have the same knee-jerk emotional reactions to the words, only now to our disadvantage.

As the parent says: for a bunch of smart guys, we keep doing stupid things. Stubbornly, with the excuse that it 'should work'. It doesn't. It's preaching to the quire.

The saying is "preaching to the choir"[0]. :)


[0] http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/choir#Noun

The saying is also "preaching to the quire"[0]. :)



Ah, thanks. For the longest time I used 'maby' instead of 'maybe' in Usenet posts, before someone pointed out it was wrong.

> before talking to normal human beings

This scared me and makes me feel as if we believe 'normal human beings' are party members from 1984.

> The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past. He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure for ever? Like an answer, the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back to him: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Collateral damage. Extraordinary rendition. Enhanced interrogation techniques. Surge. Undocumented workers. Obamacare. Death panels. Mis-speaking. Freedom fries.

We've actively regressed since McCarthy. The modern political vocabulary is dominated by doublespeak and thought-terminating cliche[1]. Most of the fundamental battle lines in American politics have long since been distilled into meaningless soundbite slogans, devoid of any real semantics.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thought_Reform_and_the_Psycholo...

I think there has been a lot of regression on the side of us progressives who are so afraid of being rhetoricians that we actively scuttle our own causes with poor choices of language. There are very few politicians on the left trying to best these trends with wit and brevity.

"rooting" would be the better word, as used for android phones.

Rooting is devoid of any positive connotations, and sounds like a root canal or some sort of nefarious "root/rumaging around"

I would have bet on an association with vegetal roots, or more like rooting for something, but yes, it might be overly optimistic expectations.

The hackers that came up with the name way back when weren't corporate PR hacks, that's why.

Copyright "Czar" Victoria Espinel laid out a roadmap that includes:

Authorize DHS (including its component CBP) to share pre-seizure information about, and samples of, products and devices with rightholders to help DHS to determine whether the products are infringing or the devices are circumvention devices


Basically, giving Hollywood veto rights on anything imported into the country that can be used for jailbreaking. Sounds like we are in danger of losing DMCA jailbreaking protections.

This is a basic freedom issue. The freedom to run software I control on devices I own allows me to be free in how I share and protect my own private information. Apple and Microsoft are trending toward making it more difficult and less legal to run alternative operating systems or unapproved 3rd party software on their platforms. It has to be fought tooth and nail. Fight it legally, and fight it with your pocketbook.

This is the war on general computing:


You also have the freedom to curtail your freedom when you sign a contract.

Sure. An actual contract, not "by reading these words you agree to do whatever I say".

Of course. You have to accept in some fashion. You can't just put a contract on a billboard.

In many countries, the law states that many things cannot be signed away or agreed to, no matter how much you want to.

Your freedom to own your smart phone will disappear eventually when Hollywood figures out you didn't actually buy your phone, you are paying a monthly service which pays down your phone, an unspecified price. A percentage of which should go straight to Hollywood.

Where I live you can walk into a shop, buy a smart phone, then pop in a sim card and be off. Can you not do this in the US?

You don't pay any monthly service and I don't see how the carrier you have chosen to buy a sim card from has any basis for claiming that the phone I'm using is somehow not owned by me.

Since I purchased my first mobile phone around ~11 years ago this is how I have always done it.

You can do that in the US, but it isn't common because of carrier subsidies. Even worse, sometimes when you pay full price for a phone you still wind up with something that is carrier-locked anyway. Plus there are all sorts of technical incompatibilities (e.g. AT&T vs T-Mobile 3G bands) even if your phone is otherwise unlocked. And so on...

Surely when you get a contract for your phone & service you pay X for Y months and this should cover the cost of the phone anyway. So even if you switch the phone to a different carrier you're going to be paying the contract amount anyway.

I could unlock my phone and use a different carrier (considered doing this after the o2 fiasco yesterday) but it wouldn't make economic sense to me.

It's a neat theory, except I did buy my phone.

It should be a crime to produce things that can be "jailbroken" and call that activity "jailbreaking" instead of fixing.

I prefer buying devices that don't come with the proverbial handcuffs.

Like Android devices? I'm not trying to be sarcastic or snide either. I just get a little tired of these arguments when it comes to smartphones and tablets. Every modern smartphone and tablet that I know of comes with some form of "proverbial handcuffs" to varying degrees. Whether it's jailbreaking or rooting, there's no difference.

Official bootloader unlocks [1] are different and this is exactly why. If the devices you care about have official unlocks, you're not personally affected by this DMCA exception (no matter what you want to do to your device software). If they don't, there's some DMCA-defined circumvention along the way to some things you might want to do and you should pay close attention to this particular rulemaking...

[1] Nexus devices, most Sony Ericsson phones, many HTC phones, soon to include the ASUS Transformer Prime, ...

Jailbreaking does unlock a lot of functionality that should be in a PC. Being able to SSH into the system and use unix tools opens a lot of possibilities. Just being able to rsync music over wifi to my iPod and scrapping iTunes is worth it.

Apple's underlying Darwin system works great on a mobile device. I don't own an Android, but afaik it's underlying Linux system is not as robust as Darwin. So where else do you go for a Linux/Unix based smartphone/tablet?

Where are the Linux tablets, and where is the support from the Linux community for such hardware?

I don't own an Android, but afaik it's underlying Linux system is not as robust as Darwin.

What are you basing that on? You can easily install Unix tools on Android devices. Here's a complete development environment that doesn't even require rooting: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.spartacusrex.spart...

I've had an impression that because of Android's abstractions you didn't have the same "bare metal" access, such that scripting languages have to be run inside a container app: http://code.google.com/p/android-scripting/

Your impression is wrong, you can get access to the full Linux shell.

It depends on what you want to do. Scripting Layer for Android is about letting scripting languages access Android APIs and services. In that case, you need some sort of container / runtime to talk to the rest of the Android/Dalvik world, but there's nothing that prevents you from getting at the bare metal, if that's what you want to do.

In theory, I agree. In practice, I've realized that most of the jailbreaking phones/tablets are used to download illegal applications and/or without paying. I know this is a somewhat contrived statement, but this is from what I've seen in company/university/engineering departments I've worked/studied.


I myself had to jailbreak my iphone to install spotify (and asked a friend to pay for it since he's outside of Canada). For some reasons, spotify is illegal here. (Yes, I know, I illegally downloaded an illegal application to legally download/listen to music).

> illegally downloaded an illegal application to legally download/listen to music

You mean to _illegally_ download/listen to music; there's no license in your region.

I used a jailbroken iPhone for 2 years, I never once pirated an application, I still purchased plenty of apps from Apple's dumb app store and a few from Cydia. Mostly, I just used it to "background" apps before that was a built-in feature.

Very few of the applications available on Cydia are "illegal", they're just banned from the App Store by Apple. Similarly, there's nothing illegal about linux, but you'll have to jailbreak your ps3 to install it.

Even if 100% of the uses were illegal, this is an issue of principal. When I buy a gadget, I didn't lease it, I bought it. It is mine. As such, I shouldn't have to worry I might go to jail (!!) for modifying my device in a way that doesn't impact anybody else.

this is an issue of principal.


Most cars with performance tuning are used to speed on roads, but it should be and is still legal.

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