updated 05:00 pm EST, Thu February 19, 2009
Mozilla, Skype vs. Apple
Two prominent companies, Mozilla and Skype, have joined in opposition to Apple's stance on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Apple recently challenged an exemption to the DMCA proposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which would guarantee the legality of jailbreaking iPhones and other handsets. In its formal response, Apple complained that opening the law would risk damage to phones, and encourage breach of contract as well as copyright infringement.
Mozilla and Skype have submitted new filings of their own however, arguing for the benefits of liberalized phone use. Skype suggests a world in which wireless networks would support any compatible device, and work without any arbitrary limitations on software. A scheme of this sort "ensures that innovation occurs at the edges of the network where hundreds if not thousands of application developers and software manufacturers, rather than a handful of wireless carriers, can compete to meet consumer demand," according to Skype's lawyers.
Mozilla similarly chastizes "some cellular phone providers" for blocking "legitimately obtained software," likely a reference to its Fennec mobile web browser. Forcing people to detour carrier or phone vendor stores is, in fact, claimed to have a "chilling effect on users and on innovation." The company has denied any interest in an iPhone browser though, citing Apple's resistance to Flash and other runtime software. Working with platforms like Linux makes more sense, contends Mozilla CEO John Lilly.
Skype would benefit greatly from freer DMCA rules, as many phone carriers have intentionally raised obstacles to VoIP software in order to maintain profits. There is currently no Skype application on the iPhone, and the VoIP services that are supported operate only over Wi-Fi and not 3G. The company charges only for connections from computers and handsets to landlines or cellphones.