Could iPhone hacker George Hotz face jail time?

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I don’t talk a lot about hacking the iPhone here, but a big story this week has been George Hotz and the fact that he was the first to fully unlock the iPhone. I was reading an article over at Macenstein, and it brought up a good point.

One of the questions about the unlocking of the iPhone is the legality of it. Hotz believes that he is protected under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) because of a clause allowing you to unlock a phone for personal use…then it was reported today that George traded his unlocked iPhone to a Kentucky-based mobile phone company in exchange for a Nissan 350Z, and 3 brand new locked iPhones.

Suddenly, that’s not so much of a personal use issue anymore. He has definitely profited form unlocking the phone. What do you think he’s going to do with 3 LOCKED iPhones? Gee…I’ll be he unlocks them.

If he does, and he trades those away…he could be in some serious trouble.

AT&T is NOT happy about this.

Apple is probably not so happy either…and George could very well find himself on the news again…as part of a lawsuit.

I think it’s impressive that he’s managed to pull this off, and I wish him well in his future endeavors, but I think it would probably best for him if he just stepped back, and didn’t make too much noise…and hope Apple or AT&T don’t go after him.

If you want to check out Macenstien’s article, click here. It’s a good read, and I agree 100%.

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Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

19 thoughts on “Could iPhone hacker George Hotz face jail time?

  1. To the masses:

    Serves him right. Yeh, it would be nice to have the phone open to all providers, but it isn’t, so deal with it. Switch carriers, or stop complaining.

    Apple and AT&T have a partnership. In order for the iPhone to happen, they needed a partnership with a phone company. A phone company that couldn take on the challenges of revamping their network and services to support the likes of visual voicemail, etc. That means one phone company, not the whole friggin phone industry!!!!

    The phone is locked out for a reason. If you defeat that and make it open to all networks, serves you right for getting in trouble. People have to understand that the phone is the intelletual property of Apple and they can dictate what you can and can’t do with it. Just because you bought it and it’s yours doesn’t mean you have the rite to violate the terms of it’s usage. Only an idiot whould hack it and then tell the whole world they hacked it. If you hacked it, fine. You don’t advertise it though. Would you tell the whole world about how you hacked the ATM down the street? No.

    I’ve gotten real tired of people complaining about the phone being locked out, the lack of 3rd party apps (Don’t even get me started) and the nonsence with the fixed battery. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. Deal with it.

    I really wonder at what point did the world think they had a say in what a company can and should do with a product. It just blows my mind.

    And just for the record, I love the iPhone. I love Apple. I hate AT&T. The plans are too expensive, and EDGE is a joke. Thus the reason why I don’t have one.

    I’m dealing with it.

  2. I support him to Unlock the iPhone. The iPhone need to be Free from AT&T
    Sh*t contract.For The American user this is not a big issue but here in Europe there is a big noise aroud it.Personaly I want to buy a normal price iPhone just like 599$ for the 8-gig from the State’s and not a 800 Euro iPhone when it comes.I have a personal dilema of buying a AT&T iPhone a trying to get it Unlocked.I’m 50/50 on doing that :?.So people like this guy are the ones who chagne the world. 🙂

  3. I have an 11-week old puppy, and locking a piece of technology this great is like me putting food on the floor (or anything really) and expecting my puppy not to eat it.

    Thus is why I haven’t bought one, and I graduated with a telecom degree…

  4. I bet Apple applauds this (unofficially of course) because it potentially opens the iPhone to a wider market! Apple must hate being tethered to AT&T, arguably the worst cell phone provider in the US, for the next 5 years!. If Apple could sell the iPhone to any customer regardless of carrier, Apple wins big! AT&T losses big!
    I can’t help but think Apple wishes their AT&T contract would be found unenforceable, or whatever the legalese terms would be (null & void??)

    Apple needs to find a way to free itself from AT&T! Then the iPhone will come into its own!


  5. Isn’t that how Jobs and Woz got their start (at least it was one of Woz’s “hobbies”)? Cheating the phone company…Ironic, isn’t it?

  6. @kyre

    Your passionate ranting makes you a man after my own heart.


    (seriously – I love me some ranting – and I agree with you, the deal had to happen, and hacking it and then telling the world about it could get you in a world of trouble)

  7. For me locking the iPhone is like going to a Apple Retail Store buying an MacPro without Mac OS and selling it with Windows.Same as you I Love Apple and all Apple staf I’ve been a Mac user since 1989 and the first Macintosh I’ve worked on is a Mac IICi.Never in the history of apple they sold a locked item.I really don’t care if the battery holds up 2-3 h. or even the luck of 3rd party Apps.I just want to get rid of my current phone (nokia n85) and get this baby up and running.

  8. Is that the guy’s actual picture? He needs to get out more often, and cut his hair… and maybe a few trips to the gym.

  9. I’m from Europe but here’s a question for all you Americans… Why AT&T has the largest customer base but people all over web shit over AT&T every time I see article about iPhone?

  10. Although Steve and Woz met in 1969, a real friendship between
    Steve and Woz started developing a couple of years later, when Woz became a renowned figure in the small world of “PHONE PHREAKS”. These were a primal form of hackers who had found out a way to fool AT&T’s long-distance switching equipment, thus providing a way to make international calls for free. The hardware they used to do so was known as “blue boxes”. Woz’s blue boxes were the best ones around, and it fascinated 17-year-old Steve. He soon convinced his friend they should sell the boxes, and they did so for a few months (the price varying form $150 to $300) before it started to become too illegal to be safe.

    OPS look’s like someone else Before this boy knew how to F**k AT&T and still sell this stuff not for personal use. 😉
    So I think Apple Can Not file a lawsuit.Because It’ll be Ironic.

  11. Brian, I read iWoz (Wozniak’s autobiography (ghostwritten)). Yeah, the Steves experimented with blue boxes, which basically made override tones into the phone, getting them free long-distance calls. It was a sort of hobby, but they didn’t do it very long, just long enough to realize that the phone system was pathetic.

  12. Kyre,
    For one, the DMCA specifically allows hacking of cell phones for use on other networks! So the law may very well be on his side! This is yet to be decided and due to the complicated nature of the hack it most likely will be dropped and we will hear little about this person in the future. A completely software hack is a different thing.

    “I really wonder at what point did the world think they had a say in what a company can and should do with a product. It just blows my mind.”

    Companies that don’t allow their customers (or perspective customers) to “have a say” either don’t last long or they are a monopoly!


  13. @Primoz

    Just like Microsoft, just because they are the biggest, doesn’t mean they are the best. (Or any kind of good for that matter.)

  14. I don’t think he would face jail time. It was a good move for him to get out in public eye. I’m sure they could try and throw a lawsuit but how would AT&T and Apple look if they put a 17 year old in jail. Especially when it seems a big majority of people out there are on his side.

  15. @kyre: ok good point, though I don’t agree it’s the same. Anyway I think all mobile operators are more likely to be hated then loved by people… Some more, some less. Apple had to start somwhere. I wish they would finaly start here in Europe!!!
    I am kind of disapointed that Apple doesn’t offer totaly unlocked iPhone, without contract in it’s retail stores. For a higher price of course!

  16. Yes today at my Local Apple Forum is a post of the first Bulgarian iPhone unlocked by this metod.It can send SMS and get SMS but for now you can only call.I’m 80/20 to get an AT&T iPhone Next Week. 🙂
    Im SO HAPPY. :):):):):):):):):):):)

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