Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) have introduced a new bill to make smartphone unlocking legal called the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013. It would make unlocking cell phones, tablets, and other mobile communication devices permanently legal in order to switch carriers.
Currently, Section 1201 of the DMCA forbids sidestepping technical measures that prevent modifying copyrighted works – such as jailbreaking a tablet to run 3rd-party apps, going around digital rights management for archiving or disability access purposes, or unlocking a cell phone – regardless of whether there is any actual copyright infringement. The Unlocking Technology Act would make it permanently legal for consumers to unlock their mobile devices, and consumers would not be required to obtain permission from their carrier before switching to a new carrier. In addition, the bill would permit the use and sale of tools – like software apps – that enable unlocking for uses that do not infringe on copyright. The President would also be required to ensure that international trade agreements reflected the changes in the Act.
“This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives,” Rep. Lofgren said. “Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased. If consumers are not violating copyright or some other law, there’s little reason to hold back the benefits of unlocking so people can continue using their devices.”
“Everyone should be free to use their personal property as they see fit and choose their preferred technologies without penalty,” said Rep. Massie. “This bill rolls back excessive and out-dated prohibitions on otherwise lawful innovations that promote marketplace competition. I look forward to advancing this bipartisan effort with Reps. Lofgren, Polis, and Eshoo.”
“Consumers who are not under contract should be able to unlock their cell phones or tablets,” Rep. Polis said. “We should not have laws on the books that prohibit consumer choice and stifle competition in the marketplace. I am pleased to introduce this bill with Representatives Lofgren, Massie, and Eshoo which will permanently restore consumers’ freedom to switch wireless carriers.”
In 2006, The Library of Congress had issued an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that allowed for cell phone unlocking; however, it decided not to extend that exemption past January, 2013. A petition was started to protest the decision and after over 114,000 signatures the White House and the FCC came out in support of making cell phone unlocking legal.
There have been other bills introduced by members of Congress but they were considering lacking. TechDirt describes this bill as ‘a real reform bill’ that makes it clear: “if you circumvent some sort of digital lock for a reason that has nothing to do with infringement, it would no longer be illegal.” The bill also says that the President will need to modify any trade agreements that the changes would affect.
via tech dirt
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