Master of My Mobile Device.

You've been newly empowered to go ahead and "jailbreak" your iPhone. That's according to a decision by the Library of Congress, which in addition to compiling all the world's books also happens to be home to the U.S. Copyright office. What the decision seems to mean, in practice, is that you no longer are dependent on the Apple App Store for apps. As long as a program has been legally acquired, you are the master of your mobile device, and you can do what you need to do to get the application to run on that unit.

Apple's objection to the legitimization of jailbreaking has been, in part at least, that dealing with the problems people are going to cause by tweaking their device takes up valuable customer service time. As the personal computer industry knows well, if something goes wrong, customers are more likely to call Dell or Apple than the makers of the last program they bought and installed. For Apple, that customer service time is better spent explaining to customers that their antennae woes can be traced back to the fact that they're holding their phones wrong. Seriously, though, the LOC decision here reflects a powerful understanding that hardware and operating systems can be separated from other software in the mobile space. The iPhone becomes a powerful mobile computer, less so an Apple (and AT&T) controlled appliance. That's an encouraging shift for consumers, it seems, especially since for more and more people, their mobile phones are becoming the tools they use to reap the benefits of the Internet.

--Nancy Scola

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