Each Friday, LawPath will look to answer some of the more commonly asked and ambiguous legal questions in Australia. Today we’ll be discussing whether jailbreaking a phone is legal in Australia.

Is Jailbreaking Legal In Australia?

2014 saw sales of smartphones hit roughly 1.2 billion worldwide, and it’s little surprise that this has resulted in an increase in the number of jailbroken phones in Australia. Users are continuing to find ways to bypass the limitations put on the phone by their original manufacturers and customising the operating system to fit their needs. However, considering what is involved in the process, it’s worth asking: is jailbreaking legal in Australia?

What is Jailbreaking?

Jailbreaking a smart device is not to be confused with unlocking your phone – they sound similar but involve two different outcomes. Unlocking your phone is when you detach your cellphone from the actual service provider, allowing you to easily transition back and forth between cellphone carriers.

Jailbreaking is when you detach a phone from the restrictions the original phone manufacturer placed on it. This process allows the phone to download then use other applications and features not normally found on the device, usually due to them conflicting with iTunes’ or Google Play’s license agreement.

Jailbreaking vs. the Big Brands

While this can be convenient for customers, it is a different story for the makers of these smart devices. When it comes to companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Google, jailbreaking a phone poses significant threats, with the process actually a chance of causing harm to the phone. On a larger scale, the security put up by the company’s operating system has also been compromised and the jailbreakers are now using that to enter or alter other areas.

Additionally, for companies like Apple, who make three cents for every dollar spent on an application, there is a considerable loss in revenue. Thousands of apps are downloaded through jailbroken phones, revenue that’s virtually impossible to recover.

What’s Being Done About It?

No company likes being vulnerable to outside sources and at a risk of losing money. However, recent court cases in America have not been able to declare jailbreaking illegal, with Federal regulators declaring in 2010 that there’s “no basis for copyright law to assist Apple in protecting its restrictive business model.”

In a means to combat the problems of jailbreaking, Apple have begun to hold more firmly to their warranty agreement. Essentially this involves Apple enforcing its legal right to terminate the warranty of jailbreakers at any time they please. This warranty then acts as a make-shift enforcer to those who buy their products.

What’s Next?

With other countries changing their laws to better fit customer’s needs, Australia’s policy on the matter is a bit of a gray area. While it is not advised for one to jailbreak any device, to those who have used or continue use this method, no charges has come up. The group, Electronics Frontiers Australia (EFA) say that anti-circumvention laws may apply but there are currently no legal implications to deter someone from jailbreaking.

Dominic Woolrych

Dominic is the CEO of LawPath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.