Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Congress sympathetic to consumers who want the legal right to unlock cell phones again


Should cell phone unlocking be legal again?  Chloe Albanesius has a detailed story in PC World about the reaction of legislators, since unlocking became illegal again in January after a 90 day waiting period.

The main story is here.
  
The Copyright Office had been involved in an obscure deliberation of whether the unlocking envisions “non-infringing” intentions, a consideration in whether to allow tampering with a device under the DMCA.  The PDF of the press release from last October is here.  This area of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is more obscure than the "Safe Harbor" (or "safe haven") area, and seems to have unintended consequences in areas not really involving copyright (although patents could come into play).  

This action by the Copyright Office seems to have originated administratively and has drawn attention from more libertarian and perhaps GOP members of Congress.  The penalties could be enomrous and the means of enforcement would be obscure (facial recognition)?

Sam Seder has a video on the LOC's action here.
  
So many lawmakers feel that you should be allowed to unlock a phone when you own the hardware. This probably is true in state legislatures, too.  
   
The practical concerns could occur when a customer moves to a different area of the country (maybe because of job change) because his home carrier doesn’t cover the new area well. For example, Verizon doesb’t cover a lot of West Virginia very well, but Sprint does.  When I moved back to northern Virginia in the early fall of 2003, I found that USWest (from Minnesota) didn’t cover the new area at all, and I had to start all over with a new cell phone, an additional moving expense.

A earlier article by Chloe in PC World warned that jailbreaking can void your warranty on an iPhone (or any smart phone).

There is an article in Tech Liberation, which informs us that the true libertarian (Cato) position is to respsect the carrier's right to enforce a contract, article by Jerry Brtio, here
   
It’s likely in the future that some remote home security features, and even 2-step website signon may work better with some carriers on some manufacturers (the iPhone) than others, especially for consumers traveling overseas, and this could provide additional legitimate reasons consumers could want to switch.  

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