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Jailtime For Jailbreaking 281

An anonymous reader writes "Remember how the Librarian of Congress announced that jailbreaking your phone was legal and not a violation of the DMCA? Yeah, well, tell that to Mohamad Majed, who has already spent over a year in jail and has now been pressured into pleading guilty to criminal DMCA violations for jailbreaking phones for use on other carriers."
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Jailtime For Jailbreaking

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  • Well naturally... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:03PM (#34419070)
    In the US the tone of the punishment has to fit the tone of the skin. It's the American Way.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:04PM (#34419082)

    And? The clause about no ex post facto laws swings both ways.

  • Lawsuit Phishing (Score:1, Insightful)

    by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:10PM (#34419220)
    So if you own a car, you can mod it to run on ethanol, remove the factory stereo and logos with no problem. But, if you do a similar thing with a cheap phone or gaming system you are instantly a CRIMINAL!

    The new business model in the media/tech industry seems to be 'Lawsuit Phishing' where you sue everybody and hope that a few suckers actually pay you.
  • by troll -1 ( 956834 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:12PM (#34419240)
    If they controlled the Internet you'd buy your computer from your ISP and it wouldn't work with any other ISP, your Internet bill would list every website you went to, out-of-state websites would be billed at a higher rate (except for nights and weekends). The current model for phone networks is an overpriced relic of the last century.
  • Beyond the Scope (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Voyager529 ( 1363959 ) <voyager529 AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:13PM (#34419262)

    From the link in TFA:

    Majed shipped several thousand prepaid wireless phones to co-conspirators in Michigan and Hong Kong.

    Majed didn't go to jail for jailbreaking his iPhone, or even a handful of them for friends. The jailbreaking exemption ( states that the exemption exists for the owner of the device in order for the owner to use an alternate cellular network. This guy was essentially running a business buying heavily subsidized Tracfones, unlocking them, and selling them by the thousands. One could argue that between the purchase and the resale that he was the owner of the device and thus was covered, but let's keep perspective - Majed wasn't convicted for rooting his Droid, he was running a business on a technicality, and a stretched one at that.

  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:13PM (#34419266) Homepage

    [citation needed]

  • Primitive heathens (Score:2, Insightful)

    by countertrolling ( 1585477 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:14PM (#34419284) Journal

    Putting people in the stockade for stealing a loaf of bread... No not even... for not renting the baker's knife to cut his own bread...

  • by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:14PM (#34419296)

    Except that what he was doing does not fall under the exemption. The exemption was that you can jailbreak YOUR OWN phone. This is the same reason why it's legal to break CSS encyption on DVD to use copyrighted clips in fair use works but it is not legal for someone to run a business where by they are stripping CSS off of ripped DVDs and then selling those unencrypted discs.

    Both Techdirt and the submitter seem to have reading comprehension problems.

  • by grimJester ( 890090 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:25PM (#34419494)

    It's legal to jailbreak your own "used" phone. This guy was jailbreaking phones by the thousands and selling them. It's still legal to jailbreak the phone you own and use, it's just illegal to unlock and sell in bulk.

    Is it illegal to jailbreak a phone if you haven't used it? Illegal to jailbreak more than one phone? Illegal to sell a phone after you jailbreak it? Illegal only if two or more of the above?

    I think you have a case of the ole "illegal to profit from someone else's work" mindset.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:28PM (#34419560) Journal

    >>>this idiot pleaded guilty, so you can't really blame anyone but him.

    The Supreme Court has ruled that your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent is still a protected right, if it can be demonstrated that the person was never informed of that right. They also stated that oftentimes completely-innocent people will plead guilty to a crime they never committed, so that alone is not enough evidence to convict.

    Bottom Line:

    Keep your mouth shut. I've had people tell me, "Oh well if you were innocent why wouldn't you cooperate with the police and let them see inside your trunk, or home?" Answer: Because innocent people have been sent to prison. Better to not volunteer anything.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:33PM (#34419640)
    You're being dense. Nullification is the whole reason why we have an independent judicial branch.

    Nullification is what happens when SCOTUS rules a law to be unconstitutional. Unless of course I've missed the cases where SCOTUS rules something to be unconstitutional and the law stays legally binding. What you're arguing is semantics as any law that's ruled to be unconstitutional is unconstitutional unless SCOTUS issues a new precedent or test that indicates otherwise.
  • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:34PM (#34419652) Journal

    He was unlocking phones for resale overseas, making a profit by violating the terms of a subsidy.

    There were no terms - it's a prepaid phone, no contract was signed. The worst that could happen is they declare him in violation of their terms of service (and thus stop providing said service), but I really don't think that'd be an issue to him...

    The exemption doesn't cover this, and you probably don't want it to cover this, assuming you still want to be able to buy phones at less than full market price.

    It makes little difference if the end user can still legally unlock their phone - the carriers can't rely on the law to back up their technical measures, and that's the way it should be. If you want to enforce terms after the initial sale, do so with a contract (as the pay monthly services already do).

  • by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:43PM (#34419810) Journal

    He was running his business to the letter of the law. Tracfone was running theirs on a gamble that the subsidised phones would pay for themselves. Majed owned the phones and was well within his rights to do what he liked with them - dump them in the ocean, if he wanted - with no regard to repaying Tracfone's subsidy; if they'd wanted the terms to be different, a simple contract at the time of sale would've solved all their problems (and made Majed's business immediately untenable by virtue of breaching that contract).

  • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @05:11PM (#34422974) Journal
    It is really astounding that government organizations in US can bait people by being accomplices of make-up crimes. How far do they go to convince the guy to cross the line ? "Hey man, this cheap shit is stolen anyway, you won't help giving it back by being stupid and saying no to it. I will find someone to buy them anyway. You know what ? You may even do a social act in the grand tradition of free market by selling cheap phones to the poor. I mean these were stolen in the rich part of town. Sell them back in the ghetto and you become a good man..." I have once seen on TV a documentary, can't tell how much it was fake, about US policewomen who tried to arrest prostitutes clients by posing as some. One even went as far as proposing free service to convince the "suspect", who got arrested.
  • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @05:31PM (#34423272)
    You obviously didn't read, or didn't understand, the article. He was buying (heavily subsidized) pre-paid phones, then modifying them so they could be used on other carriers. No theft mentioned in the article at all. The carriers (TracFone, in this case) don't like that, because it costs them the money they spent subsidizing the price of the phone, which they hoped to make back on service.

    You might notice that the wording was slightly changed in the most recent version of the exclusion, it now applies to "used" phones, and must be done by "the owner," which changes the rules, and makes what he was doing illegal now. The government clearly recognized that the exclusion covered his actions, and consequently changed it.

    To Faylone: making a profit isn't illegal.
  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 02, 2010 @06:26PM (#34424204) Journal

    Sorry but I gotta call bullshit. You think the average Joe is gonna have the skills to jailbreak? Nope, they'd have to bring it to someone like me, just like they bring their desktops and laptops, and I ain't doing jack for free.

    This is just an end run around the "jailbreaking is okay" exception, by making sure those that have the skills have no reason to share those skills. Imagine what a shitfit everyone would have if they said only yourself or authorized licensed laptop centers were allowed to work on your laptop? The average Joe is scared to go into Windows Control Panel, he sure as hell ain't doing root hacking. This is just a way to make sure nobody can actually use that exception, and considering how "corporation yay!" our government has become this really doesn't surprise me.

  • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Friday December 03, 2010 @01:36AM (#34427962)
    Actually, I would argue that the second the phone is removed from the box, it is now "used" and as he was the "owner" at the time of performing the service, he had every right to jailbreak it. And as there is no current law forbidding the sale of phones between people, he had every right to sell this own used phone to someone else, and if he can do it and make a profit at the same time, more power to him.

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