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Jailbreak! New Rules Allow Unapproved iPhone Apps

iPhone 4 in Hand

A model holds the latest iPhone 4 (with an attached Bluetooth device) during a promotional event in Hong Kong Thursday July 15, 2010.AP Photo/Kin Cheung

WASHINGTON -- Owners of the iPhone will be able to legally break electronic locks on their devices in order to download software applications that haven't been approved by Apple Inc., according to new government rules announced Monday.

The decision to allow the practice commonly known as "jailbreaking" is one of a handful of new exemptions from a 1998 federal law that prohibits people from bypassing technical measures that companies put on their products to prevent unauthorized uses. The Library of Congress, which oversees the Copyright Office, reviews and authorizes exemptions every three years to ensure that the law does not prevent certain non-infringing use of copyright-protected material.

In addition to jailbreaking, other exemptions announced Monday would:

-- allow owners of used cell phones to break access controls on their phones in order to switch wireless carriers.

-- allow people to break technical protections on video games to investigate or correct security flaws.

-- allow college professors, film students and documentary filmmakers to break copy-protection measures on DVDs so they can embed clips for educational purposes, criticism, commentary and noncommercial videos.

-- allow computer owners to bypass the need for external security devices called dongles if the dongle no longer works and cannot be replaced.