What if the builder of your home burnt it down if you changed the locks?

Some copyright and patent holders like to make analogies between copyright and tangible property. I would like to make a much more valid analogy that actually involves tangible property.

Here is the scenario. A home builder builds homes and puts their own locks on the door. They retain the keys, and do not give the keys to the new owners when the homes are sold. The builder, not the owner, then decides who can have keys and who can not -- and the owner is not given a key.

Iama Liar, chief executive of the home builders association, has said the association wanted to maintain control over the homes to protect neighbourhoods and to make sure the home was not damaged.

Some owners decide to protect their own property rights and remove the lock added by the builder. In response, the builder does a few things depending on the number of modification made: in some cases it simply puts their own locks back on, in other cases is removes anything from the home that were added by the owner, and in other cases they burn the home to the ground.

While this scenario may seem far fetched, is is analogous to what Apple is currently doing with iPhones. (See: Altered iPhones freeze up, Apple Users Talking Class-Action Lawsuit Over iPhone Locking, Steve Jobs Girds for the Long iPhone War )

Apple sells the iPhone to customers in a way that they are locked down from being modified by their new owners. Some owners have exerted their basic property rights and unlocked these phones. Once their property has had the foreign lock removed, they can then choose whatever phone network they want (Including buying one and using it with a Rogers or Fido account in Canada), and to install and run software of their own choosing.

Apple is now distributing updated software through iTunes which will un-do these changes made by the owners. In some cases it simply re-locks the phone and removes any non-Apple software added by the owner. In some cases it will "Brick" the phone, making the phone entirely inoperable.

Anyone who has the most remote respect for tangible property rights should be up at arms about this. If Canadian law does not already make this practise illegal, the provincial and federal governments should come together to ensure that it becomes illegal. It is important that federal parliamentarians understand this issue given there has been interest to legally protect these digital locks applied to devices by other than their owners, giving a legal free ride for device manufacturers and others who circumvent the most basic of property rights for owners of IT devices.

See also: Locks and doors: obsolete idioms of bygone days