The debate over whether it should be legal for consumers to unlock smartphones so that they could function on any network has highlighted a major conflict of interest between smartphone users and manufacturers. Manufacturers clearly want unlocking to remain illegal in order to retain greater control over the downstream use of their products; they even successfully lobbied the Library of Congress to nix its DNCA anti-circumvention exception to smartphones back in January of this year.
Then, in May, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced the aptly titled “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act”, to make smartphone jailbreaking once more legal.
Today, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) proposed to amend the bill by providing that people (or companies) can help consumers to unlock their phones.
That change is significant because the original proposal appeared to apply only when consumers locked their mobile phones personally. For that reason, advocacy group Public Knowledge praises the proposed amendment as a “step in the right direction.”
This is a good step forward, but the lingering problem with the bill is that it carries a 2015 sunset provision. Meaning, at that time the Library of Congress will once more get to decide whether smartphone jailbreaking is an illegal anti-circumvention in violation of the DMCA — which would potentially take us back to the beginning on this issue.
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