Saurik’s Letter to the US Copyright Office

AppleAs many of you already know, Apple is trying to making jailbreaking your iPhone and/or iPod Touch illegal. Well, we ran across this letter that saurik (the developer of Cydia) wrote and submitted to the copyright office. Below is letter in it’s entirety.

Commenter: Jay Freeman (saurik)
Title: Member
Organization: SaurikIT, LLC

Proposed Classes: 5A
Class Disposition: Supporting

Computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset.

Hello. I am the developer of Cydia, the first application installed onto Apple’s devices after they have been jailbroken. Cydia acts as an open competitor to the Apple App Store: anyone can put applications up. These applications are distributed from any number of “repositories”: anyone can run one, and end users can add them to their copy of Cydia. In this manner, Cydia acts as a web browser: no one has centralized control over what can and cannot be distributed.

All of this is, itself, based on an existing “industry standard” known as APT: an “open source” mechanism for distributing applications that has been in use by computer operating systems such as Linux for well over a decade. Even Cydia is open source: anyone can get access to its source code in order to either understand or modify it.

Cydia is now installed on 1.6 million devices worldwide, at least a quarter of which are within the United States. Please note that this number is not based on download counts or “unique IP addresses”, both of which drastically overestimate the number of users an application has. This number is based on a survey of unique device identifiers (a mechanism that Apple encourages developers to use to track devices) over the last month.

These users are also quite active: 300,000 unique devices check in to Cydia each day, over 650,000 each week. This takes the form of people looking for new packages, new repositories, and getting upgrades. What these users are coming back for are the hundreds of applications that are in Cydia, each one of which being of the type Apple denies from their store.

Unfortunately, there is now concern that applications that jailbreak phones, the tools that people use to install Cydia, may come under attack from Apple under the DMCA. This is /terribly/ unfortunate as there is a thriving market of applications for these “jailbroken” devices.

Apple isn’t even the only problem. An entire new class of devices is coming onto the market, a class of devices that I do not feel currently has a good name, but for which I will temporarily call “integrated computers”. These devices really are computers: they are running the same operating systems that we find on everything from laptops through desktop computers up to massive computation clusters.

In Apple’s case, this operating system is Darwin, the base of their Mac OS X desktop operating system. In the case of the new Android phones, this is Linux, an increasingly popular “free software” kernel.

There is nothing intrinsically restricted about these devices, and nothing that requires them to have restrictions: nothing except the controlling attitudes of the people who are releasing them. The T-Mobile G1 from HTC, running the touted “open source” Android, is not able to be changed by end users using the code that Google is trying to give us.

Back to Apple’s devices, they maintain tight encryption-backed control over what applications users can install onto their devices. Apple uses this control in order to explicitely act in an anticompetive manner: denying applications that provide similar functionality to those applications that Apple distributes with their device as “it may cause user confusion”. With this, they have managed to keep Opera (the most popular mobile web browser provider) from even bothering to attempt to target their system. They have publically shut down Sun from bringing in Java (which would itself compete with their App Store due to their J2ME technology), and only after a couple years been willing to sit down and work with Macromedia to bring Flash to their platform.

They have denied competing mail applications, competing camera applications, and competing mapping systems. They also have exerted control over what they feel to be acceptable content, sometimes vascilating (first denying any application using the word “fart”, and then allowing one in which rapidly becomes the #1 most popular application in the store).

This has led many developers to “go underground”, distibuting their products using Cydia, and selling it from their own websites. As an example of some of these applications, I will describe a few of the programs I have written, and why users want them:

Cycorder – This application allows users to record videos with their iPhone’s camera and transfer them to a computer. Cycorder is one of the “killer applications” of jailbroken iPhones, and is used by a very large percentage of its users. I do not know how many, but even four months ago I estimated hundreds of thousands.

These videos themselves have become quite widespread, and have even been aired on CNN’s iReport (where users can contribute videos to get aired on the network) [1]. One user even shot a music video using it [2].


Unfortunately, Cycorder (and a few applications like them, such as Qik and Video Recorder 3G) have been submitted to Apple and then ignored for months. These applications require access to the camera, which Apple does not allow as part of their official SDK: while applications can let the user take a picture, it is tightly managed by an interface that Apple has provided.

WinterBoard – An “extension” for the system that allows users to customize the graphics and sounds on their device. One feature that almost every cell phone on the market has is the ability to change the wallpaper, much as one would on a desktop computer. However, this is not functionality available on the iPhone: “any background you want, as long as it’s black” (as Henry Ford may have said).

There are now thousands of “themes” available: sets of graphics. These themes don’t just change the wallpaper: they use WinterBoard’s full features in order to theme the entire system, changing all of the icons, the buttons, and the entire feel. Users install these themes using Cydia and then activate them using WinterBoard.

Unfortunately, WinterBoard requires access to system files that Apple has protected. For the full amount of control it provides to the user, it needs to “inject” or “hook” into every running application, in order to change the loaded graphics. This level of functionality is definitely verboten.

Veency – Another extension that allows users to remote control their iPhone using a compter monitor and keyboard. Veency is very popular among developers giving presentations of their work, but also has been used by people to make writing text messages easier (using their computer keyboards). This is of incredible value to the users who use it, although it is not as popular as other applications in Cydia. It is open source.

Currently, Apple provides no mechanism for recording the screen of the device, which means that users who want to show off their applications either have to use a simulator (which does not let them interact with the screen in intuitive manners with multiple fingers), or setup a physical camera to record their screen and project it onto a wall. Neither of these are usable solutions for many presenters.

Unfortunately, getting direct access to the display buffer requires access to APIs that Apple does not allow usage of in the App Store. Also, this requires a “daemon”: a program running in the background, to accept the incoming screensharing requests. Apple also does not allow background programs on their devices.

Obviously, though, I am not the only developer who has been working on this device. There are numerous companies that have managed to make a market selling products for jailbroken iPhones. Some examples:

SpoofApp – voice changing, call recording
MCleaner – block incoming calls and sms
iBlackList – another call blocking application
Cylay – track iPhone, theft protection
MiVTones – video ringtones for incoming calls
iPhone Modem – laptop/iPhone data tethering
PDANet – another tethering application

To bring a specific example to the forefront, I will focus on Snapture, distributed by Snapture Labs, LLC. Snapture is an improved Camera application for the iPhone. Snapture is denied from the App Store for similar reasons to Cycorder. Snapture, however, does not concentrate on videos: it is about better still photos.

Unlike most point-and-click cameras, the iPhone does not support numerous “standard” features, such as timed pictures, color tinting, image rotating and zooming, and photo bracketing. Snapture provides all of these features, and is sold for $7.99 from their website [1].

What makes Snapture even more interesting is that they are also providing a hardware component to go with their product: the SnaptureFlash [2]. This is an attachment for the iPhone that provides a strong Xenon LED Flash/Light in order to make taking pictures in the dark even easier. Unfortunately, Apple does not provide access to the hardware connector to App Store developers: this is a hardware component that could only ever work with jailbroken phones.


I therefore am going to close this (partly because I am running out of time), with a plea to the copyright office to not ignore the many hundreds of thousands of earnest users: users who are legally purchasing alternative applications and wishing to use them on their iPhones and iPod Touches, users who want functionality from their mobile devices that often no one is able to provide, but which is now possible on these new classes of devices. If only the people who were distributing these devices were fully open.

Jay Freeman (saurik)

HERE is a link to the actual PDF doc.

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  1. woohoo

  2. What a bunch of crap.

    Yes I am all for jailbreaking the iPhone and iPod Touch. I agree, there is a market for it.

    However, using Apple’s excuses for rejecting certain applications to prop up this request is ridiculous. Don’t like how Apple approves software in the App Store? Don’t buy an Apple product.

    Now there are laws that prevent Apple from enforcing this ‘jailbreaking is illegal’ nonsense. So this letter is pointless to begin with.

    This all just reminds me of those religious nuts that used to complain about Howard Stern was on the Radio, and that what he said offended them.

    If you don’t like Howard Stern don’t listen to him! If you don’t like Apple’s business policies, don’t buy an Apple product!

    • i wish i would not have to say it but you are right..

    • Hey Sam,

      Apple is totally wrong on this one.

      First off, if it were not for underground developers the iPhone would be a worthless brick. Do you realize that the majority of apps in the App Store were once underground or jailbroken apps, how do you think they get perfected.

      Secondly, do you also know that Apple OS is based on Unix which is open source code that Apple stole and is now calling it their own. So who is in the wrong. Apple did the exact same thing (jailbreaking) to reverse engineer the code and develop OS X and System 9. So with your argument, shouldnt the creators of Unix be all over Apple for copyright infringement.

      Third, if it were not for loyal fans of Apple there would be No Apple. I hate when people like yourself use the cliche, “If you don’t like a company’s policies, don’t buy there products”, but you, like Apple fail to realize that it is the customer who is solely responsible for the company’s fiscal and economic growth and they do have some responsibility to listen to their customers.

      Your Howard Stern argument is completely ridiculous, as it doesn’t even relate on any level to this debate.

    • That’s like saying.. if you don’t like a law move out of the USA. No.. People need to fight for what they believe is right. Not sit on their hands and let the bigger people run them.

    • Yeah sorry to say it but i’m in the same boat as “sam.”

    • If apple doesnt like how i am using thier product they shouldnt sell it to me.

    • Apple’s OSX was made from FreeBSD which is open source and free. You can’t steal something which is free.

    • Hello Anonymous of February 21st. Just which bits of Unix did Apple *steal* again? And *what* did they jailbreak to create OS-X and System-9 (going backwards?) ?

    • “Cydia is now installed on 1.6 million devices worldwide”

      “If you don’t like Apple’s business policies, don’t buy an Apple product!”

      People love apple’s product – they just don’t wan’t to be told how to use it.
      If everyone who wants jailbreaking doesn’t buy from apple, apple would loss a lot of money. I don’t think they want that. Therefore that is not a valid argument in my view.

  3. saurik is absolutely right.

  4. GO JAY FREEMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Saurik thank you for everything!!!

    AppStore apps = bunch of crap
    Cydia apps = a musthave!!!

    This is just due to the apple’s policy which is against developing marvellous apps (they are trying to get rid of competitors = against democracy!!).

  6. Jay Freeman is a very smart guy. His letter is very poorly written. That matters. The sentiments are right, the writing needs help.

  7. iphonejunky says

    if you all recall when the iphone 2g came out there was no app iphone 2g WAS a brick and i couldnt believe i paid all that money for a device that lacked basic functions..but once jailbreakin became available i think it makes the phone worth the cash.. Apple looked at the jailbreak option and saw a cash cow waiting to be milked..i think if im going to pay money for a device and i own it i should be able to do what i please with it..i still dont see how Apple can look at devices that are 1/4 of the price and do more basic functions(MMS, copy&paste, etc.) and think that charging someone hundreds of dollars for a device that has the ability to perform these options but are gonna hold them back..sounds like an Apple power trip to me..just my 2 cents..

  8. crazy but true… Apple is so stupid it would of have Recorder and MMS it will be the perfect devices off all time even though it’s.. Since i heard of jailbreaking ipodtouch/iphone i been using this method since 2years and half works perfeclty fine… I have a iphone 3g jailbroken white 16gb 2.2 and IS THE NUMBER ONE BEST ON MY HIGH SCHOOL CRAZY BUT TRUE….

  9. tango mango says

    the only reason why i got myself an iphone is because i realised i could jailbreak it and have cydia installed onto it..

  10. george mitchell says

    I hate to say it, but Apple is gonna win this in court. Unfortunately when it comes to circumventing firmwares and intellectual property the government always sides with the original maker. It sucks. Thats when the public gets angry and starts pirating instead of using the devices for what was intended. This is really no different than mod chipping, or firmware hacking. Unfortunately Apple this sweet phone is gonna turn into a hackers dream if you push this nonjailbraking ideal. Unfortunately in this lovely country we live in. Just because we use our hard earned money to purchase things, that doesn’t automatically give us the “Right” to do what we want to do to the items after we own them. This is sad but true. Just look at Microsoft, Sony, Direct TV etc… They win every case when it comes to this type of circumventing their intellectual property.

  11. Apple can’t declare jailbreaking is illegal. Only the court can. :)

  12. Bolivar Aquino says

    Well, what i think is that, the people that got their iphones from the internet, bought them from another person, or got it from another source rather than actual AT&T store…(LIKE I DID, I’m from dominican republic and have my iPhone jailbreaked) HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH APPLE’S POLICIES, so there’s nothing they can do about it.

    Also, I need to say that people that HAVE an AT&T account, and are still paying the phone or whatever, there’s no way apple can sue you for jailbreaking your phone, what you’re doing with your phone is Modifying it software, adding stuff to it, cause you own it, what they own is the telecomunication service they provide you, cause you pay for it. In the case of Cydia and Every other stuff you can add your phone… -> WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING IS SHARING THEIR STUFF, IF YOU WANT TO CALL THAT SHARING, PIRACY, STEALING OR SIMPLY KINDNESS – – do it – – Cause they may have all their policies, but we have our phones.


    Thx, Apple!.

  13. Apple is all about the money!
    you pay too much for what you get
    and what bullcrap was that, you had to pay to upgrade from 1.1.4 to 2.x
    unfortunately for apple there is a way to do it for free xD

  14. Look at it from another angle. If you write a program for a device it is has a copyright owned by you. Now If I get a law passed that makes it illegal for you to do that without my permission I can take all control of that app from you. But I could be way off base here.

  15. Whether or not they have the right to make jailbreaking illegal, it is too late for that. Many consumers, myself included, purchased the iPhone with the notion that Jailbreaking was legal and would be available. The notion in which Apple is trying to put out now is that they can sell a product with available functions, whether being understood unground or not, Apple sure let Jailbreaking slide through fairly easily (I’m not undermining the work of the Dev Team, I am just saying Apple has had the cash to prevent this from day one). Now that the growth or Jailbreaking is starting to platoon, Apple is finding this to be the convenient time to try to halt it. When they were selling products to Jailbreaking it was a obvious business choice for Apple to let it go. Now that they are trying to make the App Store more primary and enjoying it’s growth in comparison to Cydia and App Store. I don’t know what/if a law states involving selling a product with false pretenses, but I think it would apply here, due to the fact that Apple did promote and/or surely not hide the Jailbreaking scene. Apple, look in the mirror, you are scamming your customers of what your whole business has been based off: the freedom of individuality in development and choice. In other words, Apple has always been about not coming out with a product to be the same for everyone but giving freedom within a product. Don’t become Microsoft.

  16. Didn’t someone or all the countries of the world sue Microsoft for a closed product?

    I don’t understand how it applies to Microsoft and not these companies??

  17. I Support Jailbreaking in every aspect. Good Job man!

    If jailbreaking is no longer possible on iPhones. I will sell my iPhone RIGHT away. We buy things and we have the right to make it the way we want to.

  18. Apple with the iphone is acting as Microsoft did with Windows. I’ll never buy an iphone until turn into an open platform.

    Despite isn’t so spectacular, modern, blablabla, I prefer Nokia nseries, which is an open platform where you can install the soft what you want, not the soft what Apple want.

  19. i agree with saurik. why should one computer be banned from doing wnat every other computer can do?

    also, saurik is writing a response to apple’s request that jailbreaking be made illegal–so *of course* he discusses apple policy!

    thank you saurik, bigboss, and all the devs, sites, & repos that make my iphone worth owning!

  20. If it wasn’t for jailbreaking and all of the hard working people making the apps that are actually useful (not just “fart apps” and other worthless crap that Apple approves) the iPhone would be horrible. I have to sell against the iPhone based off of what it “cannot” do stock. I know full well it can do mms, copy n paste, tether, take video, etc, thanks to jailbreak.

  21. Saurik is awesome! but I don’t think the court would really care about the advantages of being able to jailbreak a phone and they don’t care about what the consumers want.

    What they SHOULD care about is that once we purchase something, we take it home and it becomes OURS! Therefore we should be able to do whatever we want with it.

    It’s like buying some clothes from the store but not being able to wear it the way you want. So how can this be made illegal? It’s ridiculous.

  22. Once we buy an iPhone or iPod touch, were allowed to do what ever we want to them. Why should it matter?

    ” Ohh apple’s losing money due to people going alternative route in Jailbraking so we must lawsuit this!”

    Wutever. In the end they’ll make a new ipod release and iphone.


  1. […] Here is what saurik had to say the man behind CYDIA "These users are also quite active: 300,000 unique devices check in to Cydia each day, over 650,000 each week. This takes the form of people looking for new packages, new repositories, and getting upgrades. What these users are coming back for are the hundreds of applications that are in Cydia, each one of which being of the type Apple denies from their store." The rest of his letter can be found here Saurik’s Letter to the US Copyright Office | Apple iPhone School […]

  2. […] As many of you already know, Apple is trying to making jailbreaking your iPhone and/or iPod Touch illegal. Well, we ran across this letter that saurik (the developer of Cydia) wrote and submitted to the copyright office. Below is letter in it’s entirety. See Article Here […]


    Saurik’s Letter to the US Copyright Office | Apple iPhone School