By jailbreaking, or bypassing the software restrictions that would normally force iPhone owners to download only apps that had been approved by Apple, users can add any apps that they like. The problem has always been that once you jailbroke your iPhone, you voided the warranty, and became ineligible for software upgrades, unless someone on the Internets made the software compatible for jailbroken phones, and was kind enough to make it publicly available.
Apple has responded to the Library of Congress’ ruling, reminding us that all of that remains true. Jailbreaking was never illegal, but it was grounds for voiding a phone’s warranty, and still is. The company said in a statement:
Apple’s goal has always been to insure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience. As we’ve said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably.
While Apple told CultofMac that it in the past it hasn’t prosecuted people for jailbreaking, nor developers for distributing unapproved apps, it certainly can’t now. Then again, if the estimated count of 10 million jailbroken iPhones is accurate, Apple has a point that jailbreakers have never been in the majority, and probably never will be. If you’re in the minority, though, knock yourself out using jailbreaking instructions from sites like this (for iPhone 4 users) or this (3GS owners only) to name just two.