Three serious bills have been introduced, following the success of the White House petition opposing making cellphone unlocking illegal.
One overturns the decision, resetting the clock until 2015; another shifts the decision to the Federal Communications Commission; the final one undoes the decision and removes the authority entirely.
The problem is created by, according to Ryan Radia of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “a 1998 federal law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the “DMCA”). Under this law’s “anti-circumvention” provisions (17 U.S.C. §§ 1201-05), it is generally illegal to “circumvent a technological measure” that protects a copyrighted work. Violators are subject to civil penalties and, in serious cases, criminal prosecution.”
What this means is that copyrighted or patented technology is owned by the manufacturer and only licensed to us. Actions like reselling your iPhone or unlocking the operating system are made illegal under the DMCA, unless an exemption is created by the Librarian of Congress.
Up until the past few months, both unlocking and jailbreaking your cellphone was legal. In the latest list of exemptions, the Librarian of Congress said that unlocking was no longer going to be legal.
The result is three proposed laws with a mix of strengths and weaknesses, supporters and opponents. It’s up to us to decide which is the strongest base to improve and engage Congress to make sure the best possible solution is reached.