Radio transmitters for iPods and similar audio players could soon become legal, if Ofcom gets its way.
The devices – the most famous of which is the iTrip, designed for use with Apple products – broadcast to free radio frequencies, allowing users to listen to their tunes on car radios or stereos. But under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1949, this is viewed in the same way as setting up a pirate radio station, and is therefore punishable by confiscation of the transmitter, a fine of up to £1,000 and possibly even jail time – although in practice it is suppliers of the devices, rather than users, that are liable to get into trouble.
This sort of thing, of course, is what happens when 57-year-old laws are used to regulate newfangled technologies. It's a bit like that old bylaw that allows the crossbowing of Welshmen in English town centres after midnight*. The people that wrote that law had no idea that one day Welshmen would be viewed as useful members of society, just as the 1949 telegraphy experts could never have foreseen the explosion in popularity of portable electrical wireless gramophones.
The legal situation as it stands has been widely viewed as needlessly draconian, and the telecoms watchdog Ofcom has finally relented by recommending that the ban be lifted. The change in rules is scheduled for November.
* PC Advisor takes no responsibility for the legal ramifications of crossbowing Welshmen in English town centres after midnight.