Published: June 2013

Cell phone unlocking should not be a crime

The Unlocking Technology Act would scale back government restrictions on otherwise lawful uses of technology you own. The bill promotes innovation and consumer choice while reducing over-criminalization and protecting intellectual property rights.

Consumer Action supports Rep. Lofgren's bill that if passed, would give Americans freedom to do what they need — unlock, repair, maintain, modify — the devices they own, whether cellphone or car.

17 USC 1201 currently forbids circumvention of technological measures that control access to a device protected by copyright – regardless of whether there is any infringement on that copyright. This includes unlocking a cell phone, circumventing digital rights management for disability access, or jailbreaking a tablet to run 3rd-party apps. The penalties for violations include civil liability, imprisonment, and heavy fines.

The Unlocking Technology Act would permit such circumvention for uses that do not infringe on copyright – the original intent of 1201. The bill would also permit the use, production, and trafficking of tools that enable circumventions that do not facilitate non-infringing uses. The bill creates a narrow copyright exemption for the adaptation of software or firmware of mobile communication devices solely for the purpose of switching carriers – thus ensuring cell phones and tablets can be unlocked on a permanent basis. Finally, the bill would take effect nine months after enactment, and President Obama would be required to ensure that applicable free trade agreements reflected the changes in the Act.

More Information

For more information please visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation's website.

Download PDF

Cell phone unlocking should not be a crime   (UnlockingTechnolSpprt_Lttr-(Lofgren)_6-7-13.pdf)

 
 

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