Yesterday the House passed H.R. 1123 (the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act) which circumvents the Library of Congress decision under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to bar users from unlocking or “jailbreaking” their cellphones.
A bit of background:
Most contract cell phones come “locked” to one carrier. Because of a decision by the Library of Congress in 2012, customers must obtain their carrier’s permission to legally unlock their phones to switch to a competitor—even after they have completed their contract.
The decision was based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which bans people from circumventing a “technological measure” to gain access to a copyrighted work. The library had exempted cell-phone unlocking from the DMCA’s restrictions in 2006 and 2010.
As I noted is various posts following this issue, H.R. 1123 is a stockgap measure that will expire, and therefore require renewal, in two years. Nevertheless, having the measure passed is a win for consumers and, arguably, emerging tech businesses for several reasons:
1. Some measure to overturn the LoC’s unfortunate and, arguably, big-business-lobby-backed decision is better than none.
2. More importantly, this decision preempts the Trans Pacific Partnership Treaty (currently being negotiated) which had threatened to place a permanent block on any ability to fix the issue.
We’ll see how this bill moves along and, of course, how the industry reacts.
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