A big raspberry to Apple for its corporate lawyers

Hats off to the large numbers of coding crackers in the US that have spent the summer working out how to disable AT&T's network lock on the Apple iPhone.

And a big raspberry to Apple for trying to frighten coders with threats that the distribution of unlocking procedures for its pricey new handset are illegal.

Over the summer period, Apple has used a number of iPhone software updates to make it more difficult to unlock the handset, following reports that some hackers had partially disabled its locking system.

Until a couple of weeks back, all the coders had succeeded in doing was to allow the iPhone's non-voice features, including WiFi access, to be used on non-AT&T networks.

Now Apple is claiming that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the US effectively prohibits anyone circumventing the iPhone software access controls.

One small point Apple - in November of last year, the US Copyright Office ruled that unlocking mobile phones for lawful use is not considered a violation of US legislation.

However, Apple claims that, while it's legal for punters to unlock their own iPhones, it's not legal for individuals and companies to

distribute the software that allows them to carry out the procedure.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has gone on record as saying that Apple might just be right and, if it can prove in court that the distribution of unlocking software circumvents its copyright protection, it could file a claim under the DMCA for damages.

This is awful news. Even worse is the fact that Apple's lawyers have started phoning companies and individuals in the UK claiming that the distribution of unlocking software is illegal.

It may be illegal guys, but what are the chances of Apple succeeding in UK prosecutions? Quite good actually, as Apple has subsidiaries in the UK and around the world.

But it's still time for an extra-strong raspberry-flavoured rant against Apple for getting shirty over network unlocking. Maybe it should have started distributing the iPhone on a SIM-free basis in Europe and elsewhere like any normal mobile phone vendor.

Oh, I forgot, we're talking about Apple here. Grrrrrr!