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We Should Be Allowed To Unlock Everything We Own

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the with-our-minds dept.

Cellphones 317

An anonymous reader writes "When cell phone unlocking became illegal last month, it set off a firestorm of debate over what rights people should have for phones they have legally purchased. But this is really just one facet of a much larger problem with property rights in general. 'Silicon permeates and powers almost everything we own. This is a property rights issue, and current copyright law gets it backwards, turning regular people — like students, researchers, and small business owners — into criminals. Fortune 500 telecom manufacturer Avaya, for example, is known for suing service companies, accusing them of violating copyright for simply using a password to log in to their phone systems. That's right: typing in a password is considered "reproducing copyrighted material." Manufacturers have systematically used copyright in this manner over the past 20 years to limit our access to information. Technology has moved too fast for copyright laws to keep pace, so corporations have been exploiting the lag to create information monopolies at our expense and for their profit. After years of extensions and so-called improvements, copyright has turned Mickey Mouse into a monster who can never die.' We need to win the fight for unlocking phones, and then keep pushing until we actually own the objects we own again."

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317 comments

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AMEN! (3, Insightful)

maliqua (1316471) | about a year ago | (#43204235)

thats right brother yell it in the streets spread the good word

Re:AMEN! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204729)

Welcome to the land of the free!

Re:AMEN! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204795)

thats right brother yell it in the streets spread the good word

*WHACK* ..brother just been subdued and found guilty by homeland security for conspiracy to violate DMCA

Obviously (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#43204255)

Our property is our property, and we should be able to do with it as we please. Further, breaking encryption is just math. Prohibitions on any sort of math amounts to thought crime. They want to make it illegal to figure things out.

The standard excuse for all this bad policy is that without DRM, our music, movies, and video gaming industries would collapse. I say, let them. It's just entertainment, which is a surprisingly small part of the economy (Google could buy the RIAA outright easily). Much better to let that happen than to enshrine bad policy as law for decades to come. And I'm willing to bet that people will find ways to entertain themselves anyway.

Re:Obviously (2)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43204389)

google can't buy RIAA, its not a company. its a lobbying organization made up of member companies

Re:Obviously (1)

Ultra64 (318705) | about a year ago | (#43204407)

So buy the member companies.

Re:Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204439)

Yeah and they can't be bought? Ha, I am sure these members have a price and google can easily get it done and not even feel the hit.

Re:Obviously (3, Informative)

dywolf (2673597) | about a year ago | (#43204751)

One of those members now includes Comcast. Comcast, the company that went, cash in hand, and tried to buy Disney outright a few years ago. all of it. the studio, the subsidieries, the parks. All of it. Cash. In. Hand.

Disney said no.
So they bought NBC instead.
Disney meanwhile bought Marvel outright. And that oncluded their movies too.

So ya, sure, they can be bought, these RIAA and MPAA members....But I'm not so sure google has the money to do so.

And if they did have that much, it's like tying an anchor around your neck, in the sense they then become beholden to the means and methods those members have been using to make that much money.

Re:Obviously (5, Insightful)

Jason Levine (196982) | about a year ago | (#43204405)

Exactly. I can take the dozens of CDs that I own, rip them into MP3 format, and put them on a large hard drive on a network in my house in such a way that my kids could easily select which song they want to listen to. Penalty for doing this? Nothing. It's fair use.

However, if I take the dozens of DVDs that I own, rip them and put them on a large hard drive on a network in my house in such a way that my kids could easily select which movie they want to watch, I could (theoretically) be sued for thousands of dollars (if not more). I could find myself bankrupt over it.

Note that in neither example did I put the ripped CDs or DVDs on the Internet or give them to anyone else. Neither did I borrow CDs/DVDs (from Netflix, the Library, a friend, etc) and rip them. I legally own a CD and a DVD. I bought them from a store with my own money. Why can I copy one set of those bits to a format/medium that works better for me but not another set? Especially because ripping DVDs to a hard drive in this purely theoretical manner would make owning DVDs a lot more desirable (because it would be easier to watch them) and thus would lead to more DVD purchases.

Re:Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204649)

I agree we should be able to break everything which we physically own.

Also I would propose that if we break into a system we don't own, both the intruder and the responsible for the security of the violated system will get the same sentence terms.

This will disincentive asking for disproportionate sentence terms on ethical hackers and will place responsibility both on the hacker and the hacked party: after all you were expected to protect that information; how much? well, you are asking for ten year in prison for the hacker, so that is a good responsibility measurement right there.

Re:Obviously (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204799)

Actually both industries believe that ripping to another format is illegal. The music industry just at some point realized that calling all their customers criminals and suing joe downloader into bankruptcy wasn't going to guilt them into buying cds again.

Re:Obviously (3)

Golddess (1361003) | about a year ago | (#43204815)

Why can I copy one set of those bits to a format/medium that works better for me but not another set?

Simple. Because the RIAA doesn't own a time machine. Otherwise they'd go back in time and make sure that copy-protection gets built into the CD standard too.

Re:Obviously (4, Insightful)

jonsmirl (114798) | about a year ago | (#43204483)

Limit this 'obviously' to consumer goods. There are whole classes of embedded items that should not be unlocked - medical devices, utility meters, safety systems, casino games, ATMs, airplane navigation systems........ Anything that a third party is being held liable for it accuracy. You can't have it both ways - third party liability and unlocked devices.

Security is built into hardware not copyright (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204671)

There's nothing 'obviously' about this. It's not a grey area. Either you limit everything or you limit nothing.

Medical devices, utility meters, safety systems, casino games, ATMs, airplane navigation systems should all be secured, by the hardware, in such a way that NOBODY can unlock them once they leave the manufacturer's hands. Pretending that some copyright law will protect these devices does nothing more than feed homeless lawyers.

Re:Obviously (4, Insightful)

ickleberry (864871) | about a year ago | (#43204683)

Of course they should be possible to unlock. Maybe a tamper proof seal on them while they're in service but eventually they'll be on the scrapheap somewhere. The embedded system might be useful to someone and we shouldn't waste good chips for legal reasons

Re:Obviously (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204709)

In the case of utility meters and ATMs, the ATMs are owned by the bank and the utility meters are usually owned by the utility, so it's not an issue of ownership and permission, you'd still be tampering with someone else's belongings. I'm sure most of this can be solved by treating similar things as such.

You didn't buy an ATM or a utility meter did you?

Re:Obviously (4, Insightful)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#43204735)

There are whole classes of embedded items that should not be unlocked...

Why? If I buy a medical device or a utilty meter, its mine, I own it, why shouldn't I be able to open it? I think you're mistaking regulated service providers with consumer markets. For example, if I buy a casino game there's no reason in the world I shouldn't be able to open it and modify the hell out of it. If I were to try to install it in a public place to actually make money off of it, modified or not, I'm going to get stopped in my tracks. Gambling is regulated by each state, you can't just set up a gambling machine and go to business. Same thing with all the other devices you mentioned. If your not a state licensed provider of the service connected to the device in question, all the pristine, above board, fully functioning devices in the world aren't going to do you any good.

Isn't this backwards? (3, Insightful)

Vario (120611) | about a year ago | (#43204743)

Especially sensitive devices such as medical and safety relevant devices should not be a black box where it is illegal to look into the inner workings. While third-party liability is nice this is still just based on trust and not on tests. My trust into these system would increase quite a bit if a hacker plays around with a utility meter and finds no obvious vulnerability.

I want all my devices unlocked, the liability can be linked to a tamperproof soft/hardware seal as it is already done today. This is fine with me, I do not expect the manufacturer to be liable if I took it apart, hacked it and reassembled it but I do not see any advantage in making hacking illegal.

Re:Obviously (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204487)

Our property is our property, and we should be able to do with it as we please.

Your title is "obviously", but I'd submit that isn't so obvious. There are many things I can do with my own property in my own home that most people think should be highly illegal. I can make drugs, bombs, and other weapons. I could start a huge fire! I could pay extremely loud music. The list goes on and on. I'm not saying I agree with all those laws, but to say I can obviously do anything I please is a bit silly.

How many of those are actually illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204757)

Making drugs? Depends on the drug, and you're creating something, so quite a bit different.
Making bombs? Only illegal if it becomes a safety hazzard for others. You have to prove it is so beyond a small amount. Gun owners making their own rounds are "making bombs".
Other weapons? Again, almost every weapon you would make is fine. When you go shooting them at people, it's a problem.

But, moreover, NOTHING in what you bought to do all these naughty deeds was made impossible by the person who sold you these things. The person selling you the assault rifle did not make it so that it was not actually possible to retrofit it to full auto.

And if you were re-boring your gun, it's legal.

But your phone is made not illegal, but IMPOSSIBLE. And if your modification was legal, as in the end product did not break the law, YOU WOULD STILL BE A CRIMINAL for merely doing it.

It would be like making filling the barrel of your illegal gun so that you could keep it for display purposes (or historical re-enactments) actually illegal to do.

Re:Obviously (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#43204495)

Perhaps google SHOULD buy the RIAA. They seem to get a lot of headaches from those idiots through youtube. Even if google went evil with it... would it really be worse than the RIAA right now?

Re:Obviously (1)

ickleberry (864871) | about a year ago | (#43204691)

Google buying them would solve nothing, only make room for the next round of upstart trolls who can batter google and the rest of us with the same archaic laws

EU disagrees (1, Offtopic)

recrudescence (1383489) | about a year ago | (#43204623)

Our property is our property [...]

Apparently the EU disagrees with your statement [businessinsider.com]

Re:Obviously (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43204675)

Prohibitions on any sort of math amounts to thought crime. They want to make it illegal to figure things out.

Of course they want to make it illegal to figure things out. Smart people are always a danger to those in power. Almost every time some power-hungry bastard takes over a country by force, some of the first people they get rid of is the intelligentsia.

And I'm willing to bet that people will find ways to entertain themselves anyway.

Also something they want to prevent. The idea is to keep people miserable and thinking that the only way they can sooth their misery is to buy stuff, ideally going deeply into debt at 26% interest to do so. Otherwise, the masses might start having wealth, and they could direct that wealth towards things that undermine the power of those currently owning most of the stocks in the US.

You only own everything you are able to unlock (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204261)

>We Should Be Allowed To Unlock Everything We Own
I think there is a misconception here: You only own everything you are able to unlock.
If you can't do that, you don't "own" it, you're "owned".

Re:You only own everything you are able to unlock (5, Funny)

aglider (2435074) | about a year ago | (#43204331)

You insensitive, philosophical and right clod.

Re:You only own everything you are able to unlock (0)

Zeromous (668365) | about a year ago | (#43204643)

Since when is 'missing the point' known as 'philosophical'?

The idea is that due to current laws everything is licensed because of software contained within. The problem is precisely that we no longer own our "instance", Fair Use has been completely eroded becuase copyright/dcma and others like it make little sensible (not to mention iron clad) distinction between levels of business harm: general distribution without permission, instance distribution (resale, cracking self licensed copies), and personal use copies.

Re:You only own everything you are able to unlock (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | about a year ago | (#43204501)

Which is why sometimes they say you are licensing it.......you've licensed the right to use it but not the right to unlock it........

Re:You only own everything you are able to unlock (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#43204737)

Then sue for false advertising.

The ads say "BUY IT TODAY!!!", not "BUY A LICENSE TO IT TODAY!!!!"

Re:You only own everything you are able to unlock (2)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#43204773)

Which is just another way of saying: "I am selling you this but it is still mine.", and violates consumer laws in most countries.

Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204267)

How?

Re:Agreed (2, Informative)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43204329)

Politics, make it a policy issue. Get voters to tell politicians that it matters to them. Not as impossible as it seems, take for example the proliferation of Pirate Parties across Europe and the efforts of groups like the FFII, which have been highly effective in stopping software patents and other silliness in the EU to date. I don't think a dedicated technology party is going to be of much use in the US mind you, try an effective lobbying group instead. Lobbying works because lobbyists confine the knowledge of politicians to what they want them to know. Presenting a different view is often all it takes to shake things up a bit.

Re:Agreed (1, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year ago | (#43204421)

Just some thoughts:

1) how does an organization mitigate its liability for subsequent services needed to pull users out of a drink that unlocked their stuff, changed something critical, and bricked the unit? Not all people are responsible with settings..... the unwitting, children, etc.

2) if we take ownership, do we also take responsibility for subsequent access? What happens if charges are incurred through the use of an unprotected device, say, a smartphone that gets hijacked and gets a texting malware that runs up charges? What of those charges?

3) can we then sell a device that's unlocked, and be free from subsequent liability incurred by the purchaser? What if they hurt themselves?

I'm not so sure these things are clear, and if people are willing to have the keys. Me, I rooted my phone, and find platforms that aren't open and transportable to be not my choosing. But I can take responsibility, and I'm not sure there's a cultural or legal standard that changes culpability so easily.

Re:Agreed (1)

FictionPimp (712802) | about a year ago | (#43204753)

Unlocking is not rooting....

Unlocked doesn't mean anything more than being allowed to change cell phone carriers.

I bought my phone unlocked, but I won't root it because I don't want to have to deal with the OS. I simply like the choice to change carriers. Honestly, with the nexus line of phones google has created the ability for us to change how carriers and phone makers do business. We simply need to buy unlocked phones from google. Everyone else will get the message.

Re:Agreed (0)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about a year ago | (#43204767)

Warranty and liability void if breached, nothing a simple change in licences can't achieve. There are already similar notices on lots of consumer electronics and white goods. Really, if someone puts acid in a squirt gun and their hand melts off, I've no idea how a judge could find the company liable for that.

Computers (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43204775)

We've been dealing with these problems for quite a while already with computers - putting a computer in your pocket, car, etc doesn't fundamentally change the problem, though it does make it more pervasive. Moreover given the amount of malware available in the official app stores it's hard to argue that the companies locking down the devices are doing a credible job of protecting us anyway, so we're trading freedom for... what exactly? We already have standard boilerplate that virtually all software is not warranted suitable for any purpose, including the one it was sold to perform.

If we do want to go down that road and hold manufacturers responsible we could do it in exactly the same way we do for computerized medical devices: the device is only warranted to work properly if it's not tampered with. Your choice, leave it locked down and liability for malfunction resides with the manufacturer, unlock it and on your own head be it. Make the unlocking process difficult/impossible to accidentally or surreptitiously perform, and ideally reversible (complete wipe and reinstall performed by a minimalist hard-coded BIOS), and you've got all the infrastructure you need. Nobody expects a car with extensive aftermarket modifications to be as safe or reliable as a stock one, and manufacturers are specifically protected from liability for such modified vehicles unless the fault can be proven to be in a system unaffected by them. Why should computers be any different?

Consumer Power (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year ago | (#43204455)

How?

...buy open hardware.

As long as you really really OWN it! (2, Informative)

aglider (2435074) | about a year ago | (#43204295)

Sometimes reading the documentation with a "product purchase" can enlight you. The fact that you pay for something doesn't mean it's truly yours. Sometimes it means you are allowed to use it under some restrictions. It's called EULA [wikipedia.org] . If you own an XBOX, an iPhone or a Wii, you'd already know about it!

Re:As long as you really really OWN it! (2)

infogulch (1838658) | about a year ago | (#43204399)

We *should* own all of those things. EULA's are a joke, you should either own it or lease it (or rent it), there should be no middle area.

Also your sig makes no sense whatsoever.

Re:As long as you really really OWN it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204411)

You are basically saying that they make me take care of their stuff and they don't pay me rent? Bastards!

Re:As long as you really really OWN it! (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about a year ago | (#43204423)

did you perhaps miss the point of the entire article?

Re:As long as you really really OWN it! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204431)

That's sort of the point, though, isn't it? An EULA that governs a service is one thing, but an EULA that governs a physical product is something else entirely. A manufacturer exercising ownership rights over a piece of hardware that you have purchased outright, to which said manufacturer holds no obligation beyond addressing manufacturing defects, is patently (heh) absurd. That we're even having this discussion is a testament to the sad state of affairs in which we currently find our copyright/patent laws.

Re:As long as you really really OWN it! (3, Insightful)

An dochasac (591582) | about a year ago | (#43204535)

I'd vote for truth in advertising laws making it very clear that much of what you "buy" you don't really own. When consumers are treated as criminals and not trusted the use of the products they"buy", call it what it is, rental. So you don't own your Wii, Xbox, Playstation or any of your video games, Blue Ray disks (can't play them overseas), iTunes downloads, Android apps, iPhone apps, your car, your TV, your Windows 8 laptop, your printer. And you certainly don't own your iPhone, iPad, iPod, Macbook or any other Apple products.

Now that Joe sixpack has happy bent over and submitted to this state of affairs, corporate giants are free to expand this subscription model to everything from your refrigerator to your clothing. And if you're a citizen of the US, your tax dollars are paying for FBI and other law enforcement agencies against the likes of you. As Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan put it, "We have billionaires to protect!"

Re:As long as you really really OWN it! (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#43204549)

It's called EULA [wikipedia.org] . If you own an XBOX, an iPhone or a Wii, you'd already know about it!

Some may not already know, but EULA's provide the terms under which you can use the intellectual property your latest gadget is dependent on. You may own the hardware, but software is not usually "sold" but licensed, and sometimes licensed only on the *hardware* you purchased. Of course, your hardware is likely useless without the licensed software so you are pretty much stuck with the EULA....

I'm not sure this is necessarily a bad thing.

Re:As long as you really really OWN it! (3, Informative)

fredprado (2569351) | about a year ago | (#43204845)

Oh yes, it is. The software is not a service, it is a product. As such you actually did buy it with the hardware and it is yours, at least in any country that does not follow the practice of legislating by EULA, like US.

Possession is 9/10th the law (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204631)

If it's in my possession, I own it. The authors of those EULAs can go fuck themselves. The alternative is that every product will be sold with some kind of customer-fucking clause, first-born slavery provision, etc. Did you sign the EULA? No? Then they can take a flying leap. And no, I don't think requiring people to sign before purchasing everything makes it right either. They want everything. Sorry. They can't have everything. If they can't figure out how to make a profit without perverting the whole concept of ownership, then they should raise their prices or take their ball and go home.

Re:As long as you really really OWN it! (5, Informative)

ggraham412 (1492023) | about a year ago | (#43204633)

Any EULA must be enforceable. Just because it is written down doesn't make it so. For example, the EULA can't say that the buyer must provide a webcam feed from their bedroom, or is required to deliver up their firstborn son on demand.

And that's what this is all about. What is valid and enforceable in a EULA and what is not. Hopefully the pendulum is swinging back to a common law conception of ownership, and damn all the restrictive EULAs. And if Apple or Microsoft or anyone else with restrictive EULAs wants to bow out of the marketplace because they can't fathom how to make a phone or a videogame console without restrictive EULAs, I say let them take their toys and go home. Their market shares will be taken up in a microsecond by plenty of companies willing to make a buck actually **selling** such things.

Apply to source code for apps? (0)

bhlowe (1803290) | about a year ago | (#43204299)

Lets pass a law that says companies must release the source code to their apps they sell. That way consumers can have the freedom to improve the property that they buy.. And companies must also release the 3D CAD files used to create the physical hardware they produce as well. Freedom to all!

Re:Apply to source code for apps? (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a year ago | (#43204595)

You know it will be a cold day in ..... when that happens.... Unless we can get everybody to move to Android, Linux and other open sourced platforms for everything.

same thing for games be able to unlock them for lo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204309)

same thing for games be able to unlock them for local play and even off line use as well.

Yes and no. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204315)

I don't universally believe this, especially in the case of phones subsidized by carriers. If the carrier pays a few hundred bucks towards the cost of a phone in exchange for a 3 year contract, or some sort of pay-down tab system, which is common practice, as far as I'm concerned, the customer does NOT own the phone until the terms are fulfilled. I see absolutely no reason why a customer should be allowed to unlock a phone during the time when, for all intents and purposes, the carrier still owns a portion.

However, if a customer buys a phone outright, or has fulfilled the contract terms (either stayed on for X months or paid off the tab), it should be illegal to prevent unlocking.

Bottom line, if a carrier pays for a portion of the phone, asking it to be unlocked just means customers want to have their cake and eat it too. Fairness has to go both ways.

Re:Yes and no. (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43204409)

That's what the contract break fee is for, to pay that back. The customer owns the phone at all points along there, if they didn't, then the carier would have to pay to replace it if it broke. The customer owns the phone, they're just financing it via a non-optional rider to their plan.

Re:Yes and no. (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#43204429)

I see absolutely no reason why a customer should be allowed to unlock a phone during the time when, for all intents and purposes, the carrier still owns a portion.

Absolutely right.

Just like you shouldn't be allowed to open the hood of a car you're leasing, because it still really belongs to the manufacturer.

Re:Yes and no. (1)

infogulch (1838658) | about a year ago | (#43204447)

Well lets change the terminology then:

Consumers don't buy phones and have to pay an ETF, they lease phones and if they want to keep it they have to pay the remaining balance. There, now the carrier clearly legally owns the phone up until the lease is over, at which point the consumer now owns it and can unlock it because they own it.

Re:Yes and no. (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about a year ago | (#43204461)

if the customer buys the phone under that stipulation, and the carrier binds them to a contract who cares what happens with the phone its the contract they care about, which is independant of the device, they still signed a contract they have to honor even if the phone is sitting at the bottom of a lake, in a volcano or for some reason unlocked and used on another carrier, possibly even sold to someone on another carrier.

What is this 'own' thing you speak of? (1)

fredrated (639554) | about a year ago | (#43204327)

We own you. There is no other 'own'.

Define "our" and "we" (1)

geirlk (171706) | about a year ago | (#43204333)

You mean in the the US? Because we don't have as draconian rules and laws, at least not here in northern Europe.
Unlocking phones? No problem, at least after the contract end, before that, risk loosing warranty for doing it yourself.
The worst you risk in most cases is loosing your warranty.

We do see that IP owners do want harsher laws, but there just aren't a legislative climate to do that. Rather, it's in many cases going towards more openness.

Contracts are (not) fun (1)

Knightsword (1059646) | about a year ago | (#43204349)

If you paid full price for a phone then yes, it should be unlockable. If you paid for a subsidized phone under a contract then no until that contract is over, then yes you should be able to.

Re:Contracts are (not) fun (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43204443)

That's what the contract break fee is supposed to be for. If you don't pay the carier back for their loan, then you cut them a check to cover it. And it absolutely is my property, they don't have the right to take it back and can't to tell me what apps I can and can't use from the appstore..

Re:Contracts are (not) fun (1)

infogulch (1838658) | about a year ago | (#43204551)

Contract break fees should be illegal.

We already have a system for this and it makes everything crystal clear who owns what when: Leasing.

Answer: Consumer leases phone from carrier. When the lease is up they own the phone, until then the carrier owns it. Only the owner can legally unlock the phone. If the consumer wants to break the lease, there should be a clause to pay off the remaining balance analogous to ETF.

Re:Contracts are (not) fun (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about a year ago | (#43204557)

actually they kinda do decide what apps you can use by either allowing or denying them into the app store..

Re:Contracts are (not) fun (1)

maliqua (1316471) | about a year ago | (#43204503)

this is just as stupid as the last contract post i replied to, if your under contract and bought the phone, you can destroy the phone you can lose the phone you can sell it to someone else on the same carrier, but heaven for bid you unlock it and let it be used on another carrier, the whole while you are still paying for your contract regardless of what happens to the device itself the carrier doesnt ask for them back they aren't like "Oh shit you broke your phone send me back all the peices so i can be sure you didnt unlock it and give it to someone else" no they sell you a new fucking phone at full price

Re:Contracts are (not) fun (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | about a year ago | (#43204583)

Why should it matter whether the contract is over or not? As long as you fulfill your end of the contract (pay for a minimum level of service for 2 years), it shouldn't matter whether you've unlocked the phone any time before that contract ends. Even if I turn around and sell the hardware (locked or unlocked) while under contract, it shouldn't matter as long as I pay the 2 years of service.

* insert "or pay the cancellation fee" wherever appropriate.

Re:Contracts are (not) fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204597)

Such contracts shouldn't be legally enforceable, of course.

You never really "owned" those things (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204351)

While no human should reasonably be expected to read every word of the fine print, you are implicitly buying a license, and not a product, in the majority of applications that I can imagine. When it's software or hardware, you're typically buying the rights to operate them in a limited fashion (contingent upon the license wording). This is why it's perfectly legal to punish people for circumventing hardware features even when they "own" the hardware, because they technically are just paying for the privilege to use something they have in their possession.

None of that is good, but because people continue to buy these things despite the licensing agreements they [often unwittingly] are agreeing to, there's no market force to resist them. The market has no incentive to give you what the OP is demanding, save for the few that want to stand out from the crowd by offering less restrictive licensing.

Re:You never really "owned" those things (3, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year ago | (#43204403)

Nope.

Unless there is a contract negotiation, there is no contract.

Therefore it is a personal property sale. Pretending that personal property is an implied contract is precisely the sort of NONSENSE that this article is complaining about. It's just a way for powerful corporations to subvert your property rights and abuse all of us.

It's high time that citizens started pushing back.

Re:You never really "owned" those things (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43204459)

The problem is that there's no requirement that the ToS or EULA be understandable by a non-attorney, and even attorneys have an issue at times understanding what they're really being asked to agree to.

As long as the courts are under the delusion that we all have unlimited funds for attorneys, this will go on.

What's the fuss about unlocking? (5, Insightful)

Keruo (771880) | about a year ago | (#43204355)

Can someone explain to me what the fuss is about unlocking?
If I understand it right, you are not allowed to unlock a phone which you are buying with monthly contract.
Well, makes sense to me, you haven't paid the device fully, it's not yours to hack.
Once you've paid the (24 month?) contract you're free to do what you want with the device.
If you don't like those terms why did you even buy the phone with contract rather than directly with cash?

what about roaming? pre paid sims cost a lot less (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204425)

what about roaming? pre paid sims cost a lot less

Re:What's the fuss about unlocking? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204463)

You are actually not free to do with your phone as you like after the contract runs out in th US, it is still a violation to unlock your phone yourself. You need the carrier to do it for you.

Re:What's the fuss about unlocking? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43204491)

You own it at that point, the contract termination fee is there to recover the cost that hasn't yet been paid.

And, you pay that fee whether or not you get a phone in most cases. The whole thing is a scam designed to make it hard to change carriers.

Re:What's the fuss about unlocking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204541)

> If I understand it right, you are not allowed to unlock a phone which you are buying with monthly contract.

No, you are not allowed to unlock any device that is locked.

> Well, makes sense to me, you haven't paid the device fully, it's not yours to hack.

I buy lots of things on credit. I still own them all from the moment of purchase.

> Once you've paid the (24 month?) contract you're free to do what you want with the device.

See above. You are not allowed to unlock any devices, regardless of whether they are fully paid for or not.

> If you don't like those terms why did you even buy the phone with contract rather than directly with cash?

Because all providers are colluding, so there is no alternative. If you pay cash, you pay the price of the phone + the regular phone subsidy on the bill. There is no way to not pay for a phone though your monthly rates.

Re:What's the fuss about unlocking? (2)

gurps_npc (621217) | about a year ago | (#43204599)

What you describe would be OK. But it is not accurate.

There is no release after the contract is up.. It doesn't matter if you have owned it for one month or 10 years, you NEVER gain the right to do what you want with the device.

Re:What's the fuss about unlocking? (1)

Custard Horse (1527495) | about a year ago | (#43204673)

Whilst your argument hold water to a certain extent the fact exists that once you enter into a contract you are bound to pay the monies due under the contract regardless of what you do to the phone.

If the phone is uninsured and you lose or break it, you still have to pay the contracted fees. So, what loss is there to the supplier if you unlock your phone?

As for the fuss of unlocking - well, if you own a device you should be able to use it unfettered. It would be like purchasing a chest of drawers only to find that half of the drawers were locks and you were not supplied with a key.

There are ramifications of unlocking everything. The original Xbox was hacked at an early stage and used as a very able media centre. I did this to mine and did not purchase one game for it for the 8 years or so that I used it, much to Microsoft's chagrin I would imagine.

When hardware is subsidised in order that investment can be recovered over time, I see no harm in protecting the business model by allowing a period where you are not allowed to unlock it which would tie in with the warranty period. It would be even better if the hardware unlocked itself once the warranty expired.

Re:What's the fuss about unlocking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204677)

Unlocking is misunderstood.

i believe the real danger of unlocking is merely warranty voiding and gets overblown into other dangers. If I root, I can harm my device. If I install ddwrt on my router, I can harm my device. If I use some apps available on Linux, I can overclock my hardware and harm my device.

If you're a decent person you accept that you are at fault for the failure, but there are tons of crappy people that would (just a random example) overclock an iPhone to destroy it and get it replaced under AT&T's insurance plan. Maybe they do unintentionally but still want to benefit from it.

  Same with a router or laptop. I believe that companies are simply trying to protect their bottom line and that bleeds over into unlocking, which would allow you to leave their services altogether. The geeks of the world that understand what all of this stuff really means are simply caught in the crossfire.

Re:What's the fuss about unlocking? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43204857)

>Once you've paid the (24 month?) contract you're free to do what you want with the device.
That's just it, you're not. Unlocking a phone which you paid for free and clear still requires circumventing DRM, which is illegal under the DMCA

The Four Freedoms (3)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204361)

0. The freedom to use software however you wish.

1. The freedom to change software to suit your needs.

2. The freedom to distribute the software to anyone else, and in
doing so "to help your neighbor".

3. The freedom to distribute altered versions of the software,
and in doing so cultivate a community centered around the evolution of the
software.

Call it what you will, unlocking is an expression of Freedoms 1 and 2.

should be able to own the cable box as well at (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204365)

should be able to own the cable box as well cable card sucks (mainly the cable system don't care to much)

Car Analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204373)

I lease a car. I don't get to tinker with my car. It says so in the lease. Somehow, I don't see that as a gross violation of my rights. I read the contract and chose it over paying cash and buying the car outright.

In addition, every lease financing company has the same "no modifications" provision, as if they were acting as a cartel. I still don't see that as a problem.

What is the big deal? If you want an unlocked phone, buy one. If you want to finance your phone, you need to adhere to the contract terms, and all the companies have the same terms. It's the same with cars.

Re:Car Analogy (1)

infogulch (1838658) | about a year ago | (#43204707)

I agree with this. Carriers should abandon "contracts" and call them leases. Then it would be more clear to consumers what they are doing when they sign a contract.

Add a clause analogous to break contract fees to allow the consumer to pay it off all at once if they wish to move to another carrier.

Re:Car Analogy (1)

sandysnowbeard (1297619) | about a year ago | (#43204811)

I lease a car. I don't get to tinker with my car. It says so in the lease. Somehow, I don't see that as a gross violation of my rights. I read the contract and chose it over paying cash and buying the car outright.

In addition, every lease financing company has the same "no modifications" provision, as if they were acting as a cartel. I still don't see that as a problem.

What is the big deal? If you want an unlocked phone, buy one. If you want to finance your phone, you need to adhere to the contract terms, and all the companies have the same terms. It's the same with cars.

Let's try another analogy: say you drive your U.S. car into Canada and the engine shuts off. You get a message on your car's HUD or on your registered cell number or whatever: for a greatly inflated monthly fee (which will be tacked onto your lease back in the U.S.), your car engine will be re-enabled and you can drive on Canadian roads. Or, you can just say "Acknowledge, Keep Driving" and pay a by-the-mile super-duper inflated fee (perhaps totaling $1000 for a road trip from the Bellingham-ish border to Vancouver). If, however, you owned your car outright and had unlocked it, you could pay tolls on Canadian roads as you go, not through some U.S. company, perhaps totaling as little as $10 in an entire month, but because you're leasing your car and have not road-unlocked its engine, you're forced to accept these absurdly high fees.

A lot of people want an unlocked phone and would be willing to finance it themselves, but you notice how the new iPhone comes out only as carrier locked versions, and then, when months later it comes out as a carrier-unlocked version, the price is still a couple hundred bucks more than it maybe ought to be? Other notes: your carriers now won't unlock your phone when you finish your contract, it is illegal for you to do so yourself, and note that they've only been so nice as to carrier unlock you for about two years now, anyways.

I've moved between countries many times, and having to deal with the carrier locking shit is infuriating, especially when, say, I want to update my version of something like iOS to get a security patch but don't want to lose my carrier unlock in the process. (Yes, I also use Android phone sometimes, but alas~.) Granted, carrier unlock is more meant to keep people domestically stuck to one carrier, so that everyone doesn't migrate to T-mobile (Science Bless!).

Umm.. (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about a year ago | (#43204395)

Fortune 500 telecom manufacturer Avaya, for example, is known for suing service companies, accusing them of violating copyright for simply using a password to log in to their phone systems. That's right: typing in a password is considered "reproducing copyrighted material."

I'd like to see a valid citation for this example, it smacks of hype. How do you copyright a single word? This isn't a logo or trademark. I don't see that flying well in court.
Other than that, I agree cellphones should be unlockable once the contract term is up, or if the phone is bought outright.

Sort your own house first. (4, Insightful)

tuppe666 (904118) | about a year ago | (#43204445)

Seriously Boycott Apple and Microsoft, that are locking hardware. Its not hard to support companies that have open hardware. The fact that your xbox, and iDevices are locked down is only part of the problem...and soon your general purpose computer.

I'm sorry your favourite abusive mega corporation wants to lock you into their self styled ecosystem. Its easy to walk away...I did.

Re:Sort your own house first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204639)

You forgot to add HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG, ....

You Are So Wrong (5, Funny)

oGMo (379) | about a year ago | (#43204473)

We Should Be Allowed To Unlock Everything We Own

This sentiment is so wrong on so many levels. Stuff should not be "locked" in the first place.

Agree with the sentiment, but details are off. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#43204493)

"Manufacturers have systematically used copyright in this manner over the past 20 years to limit our access to information. Technology has moved too fast for copyright laws to keep pace, so corporations have been exploiting the lag to create information monopolies at our expense and for their profit."

It's been more like 15 years for most of the abuse, and the majority of the problem is due to bad recent laws like the DMCA and CFAA. Granted, CFAA is from 1984 law but it has been amended several times, even recently.

In the case of CFAA, I agree that the law is outdated and needs serious change. But (as clearly shown by DMCA), it is NOT a matter of technology moving too fast for law to keep up. On the contrary: corporate lobbying has deliberately twisted the law into a corporate profiteering tool, rather than something intended to protect consumers and enforce freedom and privacy.

What we need to do, among other things, it get the lobbying out of politics. There are ways. We just have to suck it up and get it done.

Not new, not even 20 years old (3, Interesting)

macraig (621737) | about a year ago | (#43204539)

This tactic of hoarding information and claiming copyright - aka Divine mandate - is called shamanism. It's a very VERY old tactic. Copyright is just a new twist on the tactic that lets opportunists without a Divine birthright get in on the action.

Information has always been a commodity, for better or worse and "right" or wrong.

This is similar to UV (1)

GReaToaK_2000 (217386) | about a year ago | (#43204559)

The UltraViolet movement of the movie industry is an attempt to control your ownership of the DVD you purchased.

Thank you so much for giving this opportunity. I f (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204571)

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Unlock my car on public roads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204601)

For safety reasons, some things need to stay locked.

Finally, but let's go further (1)

gQuigs (913879) | about a year ago | (#43204603)

I feel like the blurb (at the bottom) from http://fixthedma.org/ [fixthedma.org] is just not enough. This article goes further...

Let's go even further.

Anti-circumvention technologies should be ILLEGAL in general consumer devices. They are anti-competitive, restrict consumer choice, and usually have to spy on users. The LAW already protects those corporations copyright interests (and to an insane degree, but that is a slightly different rant).

It seems like we've given up on what a government for and by the people is supposed to do. We need a government that helps make markets better and more competitive. The law should protect consumers from these unethehical practices, and they are unethical.

I just sent that to my representatives, you can do the same... (http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml)

Tit for tat (1)

AttillaTheNun (618721) | about a year ago | (#43204615)

Provide a EULA with your payment that explicitly defines the terms in which they may use the monetary service you are providing them in exchange for their goods and/or services.
Then file claim when they fail to comply.

Re:Tit for tat (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#43204823)

You've already agreed to pay them with funds that are not encumbered in any way.

Why innovate when we can copyright. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204663)

Everybody follows
Speedy bits exchange
Stars await to gl@ow"
The preceding key is copyrighted by Oracle Corporation.

Do you actually "own" your phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204685)

If you bought a phone on a two year contract with a wireless company, I'd argue that you don't actually own the phone until you complete the contract and pay off the "mortgage." By unlocking the phone you are undermining the contract you made. You are defaulting on the interest-free loan that you used to transform your $600 iPhone into a $200 iPhone. If you don't like that and don't hyave $600 handy, pay full price for the iPhone through a credit card loan instead.

Dinnerware (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204715)

I'm going to start a company that manufactures dinnerware. In the box will be included an EULA that states that the dinnerware contained in the box may only be used to eat Lean Cuisine frozen entrees purchased directly from my company. Use of the dinnerware constitues agreement to the EULA. The dinnerware will be provided for free, and the Lean Cuisine entrees that are sold by my company will typically cost about $2.00 more than those found in grocery stores. If you dare to so much as cut a thread on your t-shirt with one of my knives, you're going to jail.

If you have to ask... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204769)

you've already lost.

eWaste tax discount-- if you're open & repaira (1)

An dochasac (591582) | about a year ago | (#43204791)

One approach which would encourage companies to do the right thing would be to tax products based on the amount of e-waste they produce but then allow for a small discount if the product is open and repairable. And no I don't care about Apple's and similar company's greenwashing "recycling" campaigns, their 8-12 month planned- obsolescence cycle is an enormous and unnecessary impact on the environment. All I ask is that the companies which benefit enormously from irreparable short-lived products pay for this necessary damage.

not sure that we should be allowed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43204803)

hello,

I (hypotheticaly) own a google self driving car... Should I be allowed to install joe blow's app on it which might potentially make the car unsafe?
Since most likely google will be the one responsible for paying the insurance cost in case of accident it is normal that they would block me from installing crap on it...

Cyrille

The real question is.. (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | about a year ago | (#43204817)

Would you pay (guesstimates) $1200 for an xbox or $700 for a cell phone.. I am as against this locking crap as much as the next guy but you have to realize the hardware, software, support and infrastructure cost a few more dollars than the free phone or the $199-$399 you pay for xbox etc..

My guess is we would have a squeel-fest if the price was a real market retail price for these items.
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