The U.S. Copyright Office is getting involved as well. This year, it will review whether to extend a ruling that made unlocking cell phones — essentially, making them work on a network for which they are not intended — legal. Public interest groups and companies such as Mozilla are trying to get that exemption renewed and get the Copyright Office to give a nod to a practice known as jail-breaking — essentially, allowing cell phones to run software of their owners' choosing vs. applications limited to offerings from, say, the Apple App Store. In comments filed in December, the Electronic Frontier Foundation claims that the current setups "disserve iPhone owners and suppress competition from independent iPhone application vendors." The Copyright Office will hold hearings on this issue May 1 in Palo Alto, Calif., and the following week in Washington, D.C. It will issue final rules in October. "[The issue arose] in large part because of the iPhone, because the iPhone did not exist in 2006," says the Electronic Frontier Foundation's senior intellectual property attorney, Fred von Lohmann. Battles over these kinds of arrangements could be lengthy. But Apple could actually benefit from an end to exclusive carrier deals by dramatically increasing the iPhone's distribution. "They'd have sold five times more iPhones [without exclusive contracts]," estimates Trip Chowdhry, an analyst at Global Equities Research. Apple declined to comment for this story, and has not submitted comments to the FCC. But on Feb. 20, RIM commented in a filing that exclusive handset deals have done nothing to restrict competition in the wireless marketplace. "There are at least 35 companies designing and manufacturing handsets today," the maker of the BlackBerry wrote in its filing. "As of March 20, 2008, there were more than 620 unique models of wireless devices available to American consumers. New manufacturers continue to enter the U.S. market …" In its December comments to the Copyright Office, Apple said that jail-breaking phone software "will destroy the technological protection of Apple's key copyrighted computer programs in the iPhone device itself and of copyrighted content owned by Apple that plays on the iPhone, resulting in copyright infringement, potential damage to the device, and other potential harmful physical effects, adverse effects on the functioning of the device, and breach of contract." AT&T believes that exclusive deals actually drive other carriers' innovation. "Exclusive arrangements are an important form of competition," AT&T said in a statement. "The popularity of the iPhone and its innovative features and applications have provoked a strong competitive response, accelerating not only handset innovation but also the pace of wireless broadband investment and applications development." Indeed, most carriers nowadays offer iPhone look-alikes. If consumer advocates have their way, rivals may eventually offer the iPhone itself.