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New bill aims to legalize cell phone unlocking, fix the DMCA

By Jos ยท 11 replies
May 10, 2013
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  1. Unlike jailbreaking, which has remained legal since 2010, a DMCA exemption allowing cellphone unlocking was effectively banned in an update to the act late last year. The controversial decision pushed forward by the Librarian of Congress sparked responses from consumer...

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  2. BlueDrake

    BlueDrake TS Evangelist Posts: 360   +105

    This is going to be quite controversial going forward, mainly I see in terms of modding consoles. Console makers have been quite firm on this, along with using the DMCA to protect themselves from such things. Since "modding" can be seen various ways, as it's a very broad term overall and we're going to see some resistance.

    I'm glad to see really a lot of things likely changed with this bill, because really it's going to change the field if this gets passed as is. Unlikely to see all these changes passing, but that's just how I view it all.
  3. hahahanoobs

    hahahanoobs TS Evangelist Posts: 1,907   +592

    I still don't get this unlocking thing. Are users fighting to get the phone they have on contract unlocked, or their phone that is off contract unlocked? If it is the former, why would carriers ever agree to that, and why should they? So you can bail on your contract taking their phone with you?

    Confused out the ying yang.
  4. Jos

    Jos TechSpot Staff Topic Starter Posts: 3,073   +97

    hahahanoobs I imagine there are multiple scenarios where you might want to unlock your phone before your contract is up. Perhaps the most common one, if you are traveling abroad for a few days and want to avoid expensive roaming charges.
  5. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,515   +974

    I love the image Jos.
  6. I can't believe that unlocking your phone isn't legal in the US. That's ridiculous.
    You're paying the contract, they've given you a handset, they're getting their money, so what's the problem?

    Guess it's one of those many stupid laws.

    Just don't get me started on Jailbreaking :p
  7. Tygerstrike

    Tygerstrike TS Enthusiast Posts: 827   +93

    I am personally glad that SOME reform is going to happen. I deal with cellphones at work and I can tell you some serious horror stories about unlocked and rooted phones. Its good to see that they are going to make unlocking available. As for the consoles, that one, if it does pass, is going to be sticky for some gamers. Those that decide to mod thier consoles may find that they will no longer be able to play on their chosen gaming system. Xbox,sony,nintendo really dont like modded consoles. Microsoft did a ban a few years ago over something similar.
  8. Not sure how unlocking can cause any problems.

    I meant Jailbreaking as in Apple products.
  9. yRaz

    yRaz TS Evangelist Posts: 2,146   +1,223

    Cell phones become unlocked the minute your contract is up. This bill is pretty much saying that if you breach your contract and keep your phone, you are then aloud to unlock that phone to use it on compatible networks. So when someone buys a $799(subsidized) Phone from att and stop paying, they can unlock it and use it on tmobile.
  10. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,506   +2,299

    That's the beauty of this. If the provider are dead set against it, it must favor the consumer by default.

    And as I said the last time this was discussed, it is illegal for phone utilities to force the rental of equipment on the customer.

    The whole cell phone contract issue, is an end run around existing legislation. It's one of those things where, "the legislation hasn't caught up with the computer age".

    Bluntly, unlocked phones would force providers to unbundle charges, and the consumer would have to be informed as to how much they were actually paying for the phone, interest charges on the phone, etc. In fact, when you come right down down to it, phone included contract plans are spitting in the face of truth in lending laws as well.

    So, if the providers are forced to tell you the price of the phone up front, then they can make a more informed decision as to how much they will pay for their traffic.

    If Comcast and/or Verizon have to issue credit cards to get the phone out the door in the first place, I say that's great news for the consumer, and tough s*** for them.
  11. Abysis

    Abysis TS Rookie

    Finally a good idea but won't last if TPP treaty get passed remvoing all fair use and overrules US constitution for copyright protection.
  12. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 1,522   +514

    Years ago, there was a US Supreme Court decision that paved the way for the VCR and made it legal to record content for personal use. Infringement of copyright would only come in if you tried to sell such a copy for profit.

    IMHO, it is about fracking time that the modern era media laws caught up with that long ago Supreme Court decision. Personally, I am surprised no one, the EFF or anyone, fought the draconian DCMA before this on the basis of the previous Supreme Court decision; personally, I do not know if they would have won on that basis, however, I thought that anyone who fought using that decision stood a very good chance of winning - if they could afford to fight the battle on that front.

    Interestingly enough, for console modders, it was Sony who fought in favor of that decision as it essentially legalized the sale of VCRs. Since Sony is now a content provider, I am sure that that is the reason they have resisted efforts to tame the DCMA and loosen their grip on consoles.

    Maybe now, the US will get stand-alone Blu-Ray recorders, or something similar, which have been available in Japan since the very first days of Blu-ray.

    IMHO, it is about time our govt came to its senses with these laws. Copying for personal use is a far cry different than copying for personal gain. Just when I was beginning to lose faith in the ability of the US Govt to actually rule and do something reasonable rather than pound its citizens with a bunch of industry inspired and hyped up laws that effectively do nothing but harm law abiding citizens, they come up with something like this. I hope it passes. If it does, it will finally indicate that some in government have finally removed their heads from where the sun does not shine.

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