Jailbreaking does not equal piracy

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A couple of night ago, Mrs. W was watching Channel 4 News as they ran a lengthy package on “how iPhone jailbreaking is fuelling app piracy“.  The trouble is that Channel 4’s Benjamin Cohen seems to have confused jailbreaking (the process of allowing non-authorised applications to be installed, rather than using Apple’s walled garden approach) with piracy (copying, distributing and installing applications against the wishes of the software creator).

I have a jailbroken iPhone – and it’s not so that I can pirate apps.  Frankly, if you’re a teenager who’s made a hundred grand in your bedroom from writing iPhone games, well done and good luck to you.  But don’t complain when there are 20% more people running your software than paid for it – you should have thought more how you were going to control the use of your app.

The reason my phone is jailbroken is simple – I want to use an alternative music player (Spotify) whilst I’m tracking my exercise progress (with Runkeeper).  That requires multi-tasking and Apple doesn’t allow multitasking on my iPhone 3G.  In a sense that’s OK – the IOS4 operating system that allows multitasking seems to need more powerful hardware (so why it’s available for the 3G is anyone’s guess) but I can make it work using a simple jailbreak and an application called Backgrounder.

Basically, Apple charged me a lot of money for a desirable piece of computing hardware and is their business model relies on increasing obsolescence so that I buy a new device.  If I have the technical ability to make that hardware do more for me and avoid buying a new phone, then why shouldn’t I?  I haven’t installed any unlicensed software, I’m not putting additional load on my mobile provider’s network, and the hardware is out of warranty already.  You could even argue that, by not buying a new iPhone, I’m making better use of my legacy computing device and doing my bit to save the planet!

It’s kind of analogous to the guys who “mod” their cars to move away from the manufacturer’s specifications.  Sure, they won’t get warranty support, but if they get a few more horsepower or whatever it is they are looking for out of their vehicle, that’s up to them.

So, back to the point – whilst it may be possible to use jailbroken phones for piracy, jailbreaking does not equal piracy.  If I was so inclined, I could run unlicensed copies of Windows on my PC, or install an unlicensed copy of Adobe Photoshop on my Mac, but I don’t hear national broadcasters suggesting that all Windows or Mac users are software pirates.

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