Published by LawTechie - July 23, 2013 - LawTechie

Intellectual PropertyThe 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.

Now the law is taking a new step forward with a proposed amendment by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). According to MediaPost:

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.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.

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