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Class-Action Lawsuit Over iPhone Locking? 533

An anonymous reader writes "InfoWeek blogger Alex Wolfe reports that some iPhone users are mad as heck at Apple for bricking up their device in response to non-Apple-authorized software downloads. In a discussion thread on Apple's own iPhone forum, one user posts that he's 'Seeking respondents for possible class action lawsuit against Apple Inc. relating to refusal to service iPhones and related accessories under warranty.' Some who have replied to the post agree that Apple is being unbelievably arrogant and is ripe for legal action. But others say Cupertino is well within its rights to control its own device." Apple seems to have removed the cited post, but it is reproduced as screenshots in the article.

Update: 10/02 02:42 GMT by KD : Reader Cleverboy wrote in to note that the screenshots present in the article are of a posting on Macosrumors, not Apple's forum, and to question the conclusion that Apple removed any posting. The article has been updated since this story went live to make clear that the original posting by user "myndex" was on the Apple forum and was (apparently) removed by Apple; and that the screenshot is of a mirror post myndex made to Macosrumors.
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Class-Action Lawsuit Over iPhone Locking?

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  • by nattt ( 568106 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @08:43PM (#20805151)
    As much as I lke what Apple does, I like the Mac, OS X, X Code etc. I think they've really got it wrong here. It was wrong to tie into AT&T exclusively and wrong to stop the phone being unlocked. It should never have been locked in the first place. I was at WWDC when the lack of SDK was announced, and that again was a big bad move. The iPhone is a wonderful little device, but without proper 3rd party app support, it's a fashion accessory. I know some mac geeks who are geekier mac geeks than anyone else, and although they've got the iPhone, they're still on their Blackberries for practicality.
  • by bizitch ( 546406 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @08:46PM (#20805171) Homepage
    I mean - wtf - do iPhone users own the thing or not? Whose property is it anyway?

    If you were to lease the thing then I can side with Apple. But if they sold it then I dont get it ...

    Aren't they violating the DMCA or whatever?
  • by The Webguy ( 41698 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @08:47PM (#20805185) Homepage
    A procedure exists - and has been tested quite a bit now - to reverse the iBrick'd efforts. linked here [].
  • by jombeewoof ( 1107009 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @08:55PM (#20805251) Homepage
    Your comment just goes to show the measures which the unlearned, or ignorant will go through to get an iPhone that they can use.
    Same basic concept as the PSP hacks a while back, people want to do specific things with the hardware that they buy. If that functionality is unavailable, the masses will create it for themselves. The fact that they cannot get it right, and end up bricking their phones is both their own fault for doing something they do not fully understand, and Apples's fault for not providing a piece of hardware the way people want it.
  • As always (Score:2, Informative)

    by Usekh ( 557680 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:02PM (#20805297)
    The lawsuit. America's answer to everything.
  • Explaining jokes.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <jmorris@[ ] ['bea' in gap]> on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:04PM (#20805311)
    I guess we have a slashdot user who has not watched Army of Darkness enough times. Sad. :)

    But seriously, just watch how His Steveness reacts to a little market dominance. Macs are a footnote in the PC world so being overtly Evil would just be suicide, thus Macs aren't infused with much Evil. But look at the iPod and now iPhone game, where Apple feels itself to be dominant. All of teh new iPods are infested with DRM from the bootloader on, no RockBox or iPod Linux on any of the newer hardware. The iPhone came out of the chute with a locked firmware, just buggy. So in response they are bricking em.
  • steve jobs has gone on record calling it a "cat and mouse game" if that doesn't dispel reasonable doubt about intent, i don't know what does
  • Re:Apple's device? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:33PM (#20805507) Homepage
    Here's a nickel, kid. Buy yourself a real history book. Software was a "product" long before Bill Gates started hawking his wares. They just weren't marketing it to Joe Consumer.
  • by adona1 ( 1078711 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:55PM (#20805659)
    One of the more intelligent things I've seen pertaining to this....and it's not hard to understand either.

    You buy an iPhone, you can do what you want with it. Apple might not like it and maybe has T&Cs forbidding it, but for all intents and purposes, if you want to unlock it, you can. This software update is optional, and by now everyone with an unlocked phone knows that if they want to keep it that way they shouldn't install the update. Those who have are a little screwed, but a workaround will be developed shortly, so they'll get their phones back.

    If Apple had released the firmware as a 'stealth update' a la MS - uploading it to your iPhone when you got your email, for example - then yes, the cries of "Evil!" would be justified. But they didn't. Don't download it if your phone is unlocked. End of story.
  • The class action law suite should be thrown out, every Apple customer know that this is what Apple does. Apple is no better than MS, in fact, in many areas they are worse then MS.
    1: A law suite? As in, a bunch of lawyers working in a group of connected rooms, like in a hotel? Yeah, that's kind of creepy. Better disbar the lot of them. (It's "lawsuit", one word.)

    2: This is above and beyond Apple's previous behavior, and even if it weren't it may very well violate interoperability laws. An iPhone isn't a standalone device like an iPod or a PSP -- it's a part of a fairly regulated network, and the FCC has some fairly specific rules as to what they can and can't do on a cell phone.

    When you get right down to it, Apple bricking unlocked cell phones is pretty much exactly what the FCC is supposed to stop with its jurisdiction over cell phone receivers. It's bad for the economy, and bad for the network.
  • Super Chicken quote (Score:3, Informative)

    by edwardpickman ( 965122 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @10:58PM (#20806031)
    "Ya knew the job was dangerous when you took it."

    You hack a device when they told you not to then you cry foul when they wipe out your hack and leave you without your phone? Ever read the service contract? On what basis are you planning to sue, "gee I didn't think they were serious Judge?" Under what legal president does that fall? Trying to hack a $500 phone comes with a fair amount of risk. If you didn't like the deal don't buy the phone. Simple enough. If you did and you hacked it and now you have a high tech paperweight you've got nothing to complain about other than your own stupidity.

  • by drifterusa ( 987504 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @11:14PM (#20806127)
    If you don't install the update, the iPhone works as it always did.

    The icing on the cake is that before you install the update, you see this (emphasis in original):

    WARNING: Apple has discovered that some of the unauthorized unlocking programs available on the Internet may cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software. IF YOU HAVE MODIFIED YOUR iPHONE'S SOFTWARE, APPLYING THIS SOFTWARE UPDATE MAY RESULT IN YOUR iPHONE BECOMING PERMANENTLY INOPERABLE. Making unauthorized modifications to the software on your iPhone violates the iPhone software license agreement, and the inability to use your iPhone due to unauthorized software modifications is not covered under your iPhone's warranty.
  • Re:QTopia Greenphone (Score:2, Informative)

    by Phroon ( 820247 ) on Monday October 01, 2007 @12:35AM (#20806559) Homepage

    You lost me there. I downloaded the source for their native Qt/Mac implementation and the ./configure script had the audacity to force me to 'accept' the GPL as my license be for it would let me compile! A company that confused about the GPL should reevaluate distributing software under the GPL in the first place. I can understand putting the GPL in a .dmg or an .pgk that forces you to click, that's just a silly developer putting the GPL somewhere it doesn't belong, but when a company goes out of it's way to make you type the letter 'a' stating you accept the GPL in a configure script is pushing the bounds of sanity. I sent them an email that I'm sure got promptly tossed aside. I had the full intention of accepting the GPL in the terms of the license itself, not artificial additional terms Trolltech feels they can enforce on me.

    I recently installed the Free Software version of Qt/Mac on my computer, and was dismayed to find that I had to 'accept' the GPL before it would let me compile and install. This is contrary to the GPLv2 license itself, which states (taken directly from the LICENSE.GPL file included with my download): "5. You are not required to accept this License, since you have not signed it. However, nothing else grants you permission to modify or distribute the Program or its derivative works. These actions are prohibited by law if you do not accept this License. Therefore, by modifying or distributing the Program (or any work based on the Program), you indicate your acceptance of this License to do so, and all its terms and conditions for copying, distributing or modifying the Program or works based on it." The text of the GPL in the section is very clear, and requiring users to 'accept' the GPL prior to being able to simply install GPL software is completely unnecessary. The Free Software Foundation is very clear on this point: "The license does not require anyone to accept it in order to acquire, install, use, inspect, or even experimentally modify GPL'd software" from []
  • by laird ( 2705 ) <lairdp@gmail.cMOSCOWom minus city> on Monday October 01, 2007 @12:39AM (#20806607) Journal
    This is all stupid.

    If you hack the firmware on the phone, it's pretty obvious that you won't be able to get warranty support if you bring in your phone with the hacked firmware on it. So if you have a physical problem, restore the factory firmware! I've hacked my TiVo, and I kept the original hard drive available to swap in, in case I need a repair, for just this reason. Anyone who doesn't understand this sort of thing shouldn't be hacking their electronics.

    Also, all of this talk about phones being 'bricked' is absurd. A device is bricked when the device is so confused (typically by a bad firmware update breaking the firmware loader) so that it can't be recovered from. That's not what's happening on the iPhone. What's happening when people install the firmware update on the iPhone is that it it's restored to the original condition, meaning that if you used 'jailbreak' to run third part apps, the apps are gone (technically still there, but you can't run them), and if you 'unlocked' the phone so that it's activated on another carrier instead of AT&T it'll go back to 'waiting for activation'. In either case, the phone is not 'bricked' as it is functioning fine just as you bought it - it just doesn't do what you hacked it to do.

    If you really don't like it, feel free to help find a mechanism for 'jailbreaking' or 'unlocking' the iPhone 1.1.1 firmware, so the game of 'cat and mouse' continues.
  • by Yetihehe ( 971185 ) on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:37AM (#20806985)
    But did they do something illegal? When you alter your phone in a way not supported by company, you lose your warranty. I don't understand all the fuss with iPhone. There are better phones out there, but somehow this one is from Apple therefore it must be "the one to bring them all and in the darkness bind them". Now you have Apple stuck in your throat.
  • What warranty? (Score:3, Informative)

    by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Monday October 01, 2007 @02:03AM (#20807101)
    Read your Windows license. There is absolutely no warranty or guarantee associated with Windows. If you install software on your PC and "brick" (cinder block?) it, Microsoft is under no duty whatsoever to repair or replace it.
  • by cthellis ( 733202 ) on Monday October 01, 2007 @03:52AM (#20807583)
    When you get right down to it, Apple bricking unlocked cell phones is pretty much exactly what the FCC is supposed to stop with its jurisdiction over cell phone receivers. It's bad for the economy, and bad for the network.

    Apple doesn't specifically look for unlocked or hacked phones and end them... Same way Sony doesn't brick PSP's. They just don't promise that firmware updates will be compatible with alternations made to their device. Certainly Sony covers up "security holes" and previous hacking methods, and I'm sure Apple will be doing that as well, but that's not the same thing.

    If you're going to alter your firmware (or whatever hacking methods you use), then you already know that updates may screw things up. DO NOT, THEN, UPDATE YOUR PHONE. It's just that easy. If you WANT the benefit of updated firmware, you can always wait for the updated firmware to get hacked itself (which usually happens in a matter of days), or reverse your modifications, update, and RE-reverse it.

    I'm not sure what the FCC regulations entail, but Apple is not hunting you down specifically and punishing you. They are not forcing you to update your iPhone firmware either. (It is a default setting, but if you know enough to hack your iPhone and DON'T change it off default settings...? That's what I call "your own damn fault.") Perhaps new software will require the new firmware later on (as happens with the PSP), but you're not required to use that software either. Freely do what you want, but freely know you're not entitled to update your device freely and flawlessly if you choose to modify it.

    That's pretty much common sense, whether or not warranties are in place or whatever.
  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:17AM (#20808663)
    Actually denying hardware warranty service on a device because of third party software is illegal just about everywhere. This practice would be covered under the same laws as third party hardware such as RAM in computers or non warranty covered parts in an automobile, unless they can conclusively prove that the third party part is the cause of the failure they cannot deny you warranty coverage.
  • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday October 01, 2007 @10:40AM (#20810131)

    When you alter your phone in a way not supported by company, you lose your warranty.

    No, you don't! There is a law, called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act [], which says that unless Apple Can prove that the alteration caused the particular problem, it has to honor the warranty. Apple cannot just decide to void the warranty on unrelated components for no reason.

    In good Slashdot tradition, here's a car analogy: If you modify the engine in your vehicle and the radio stops working, the maker cannot refuse to replace the radio because of that modification. In contrast, if it were the transmission that broke, and the maker could prove that the transmission broke because it could rot handle the extra torque of the engine created by the modification, then it could legitimately void the warranty of the transmission (but still not the whole car).

  • by WilliamX ( 22300 ) on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:13PM (#20812369)
    You know, that would all be true, except...well, if it isn't. And it isn't.

    If Apple is offering warranty service to their customer, they don't get to pick and choose which ones to offer it to. And the laws regarding consumer protections and warranties provide that certain types of exclusions to get out of providing their contractually obligated warranty service are not lawful, and give consumers certain rights.

    They can put into their warranty documents any conditions they like, but it doesn't mean that those conditions are legal and will be upheld.

I owe the public nothing. -- J.P. Morgan