Commentary

Time For A Jailbreak? Apple's Puzzling App Bans

Apple's mystifying decisions about which apps to allow on iPhones are helping fuel demands to allow people to jailbreak their devices.

Consider, just this week Apple made the questionable call to reject "Me So Holy," an app that allows people to superimpose a photo of their face over an image of a religious figure like Jesus. The company turned down the app on the ground that some people might find it offensive -- a rationale the developer scoffs at. "We feel that Apple is being too sensitive to its perceived user group and are disappointed that this otherwise creative, freethinking company would reject such a positive and fun application," the developer writes on the Me So Holy blog.

The developer has since launched the Facebook group "Approve Me So Holy" to protest. "We stand strong in our belief that even if some people find it offensive, adults can make their own decisions on whether to buy the app," the page states.

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Apple also made headlines when it rejected the Nine Inch Nails app "The Downward Spiral," though later reversed course.

For users who really want to use disfavored apps, the only way around Apple's bans is to "jailbreak" their phones. Problem is, doing so potentially violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention provisions.

The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation is urging authorities to grant a DMCA exemption for jailbreaking, or tinkering with iPhones (and other devices) so their owners can run unapproved applications.

Apple adamantly opposes the EFF on this issue, but the company's seemingly random and arbitrary bans on iPhone apps illustrate all too clearly why jailbreaking should be allowed.

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