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Reps Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Legalize Mobile Device Unlocking

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the bills-that-shouldn't-need-writing dept.

Cellphones 133

New submitter tomservo84 writes "It seems some people in the House of Reps have their heads screwed on straight. A bill would 'make it permanently legal for consumers to unlock their mobile devices, and consumers would not be required to obtain permission from their carrier before switching to a new carrier.' 'This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives,' Rep. Lofgren said. 'Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased. If consumers are not violating copyright or some other law, there's little reason to hold back the benefits of unlocking so people can continue using their devices.' Now, what chance does this have of actually passing?"

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133 comments

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No chance of passing (3, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#43683553)

This administration is owned by enormous corporations - and Obama just nominated a Telecom lobbyist to head the FCC (after promising during his campaign that there would be no lobbyists in his administration). Seriously. There is zero chance he would sign this bill were it to find its way to his desk.

Re:No chance of passing (4, Insightful)

bruce_the_loon (856617) | about a year ago | (#43683633)

This administration did criticize the Librarian of Congress for the unlocking rules change though.

Re:No chance of passing (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#43683649)

How many things have they criticized about the Bush administration, and then copied?

Criticism means nothing without actions to back it up.

Re:No chance of passing (5, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year ago | (#43683655)

Agreed. I think "nominating Telecom lobbyist to head FCC" is an action that soundly trumps "feigned criticism of the LoC."

Re:No chance of passing (4, Funny)

Atzanteol (99067) | about a year ago | (#43683979)

Looking for the +6 mod. WHY IS THERE NO +6 MOD?

Re:No chance of passing (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | about a year ago | (#43685671)

Probably because of people like "Signal 11" and Jon Katz threads like Hellmouth.

Re:No chance of passing (2)

oodaloop (1229816) | about a year ago | (#43683995)

"Covenants without swords are but words." - Hobbes.

Not the stuffed tiger, the other one.

Re:No chance of passing (2)

Ian A. Shill (2791091) | about a year ago | (#43684481)

I thought the other one was Calvin.

Re:No chance of passing (2)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year ago | (#43684503)

"Covenants without swords are but words." - Hobbes. Not the stuffed tiger, the other one.

There's another one? Pssh. Who knew?

Re:No chance of passing (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43684189)

And how many things have they changed? The bottom line here is that as long as people like you repeat that tired line, we'll never have any sort of meaningful change as there's no incentive to. The President discontinued the torture policy and hasn't started any new wars of the scale that the previous one did.

There was meaningful reform to the health care situation which the previous President would never have approved of.

Perhaps if the GOP would put forward their own ideas or at least stop obstructing, we could see GITMO closed, as it is, the President is pretty much limited to maintaining the status quo and just opening up the gates. Neither of which is particularly tenable, but you've got the GOP morons continuing to stir up fear about it, rather than having civilized trials.

Re: No chance of passing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43684499)

You don't have any new wars because your country is literally bankrupt. Where would the money come from?

Re:No chance of passing (2, Informative)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | about a year ago | (#43684513)

Re Health Care: There were numerous proposals - ALL were rejected out of hand. There were proposals such as increasing Medical Savings Accounts and many more. All rejected.

Re GITMO: Obama had control of the Senate and House for 2 years, plus he can submit an Executive Order. Don't blame anybody but Obama and the Dems if you think GITMO should be closed. In addition to those 2 years of unchecked ability to make a change Obama and his advisors had 5+ years to come up with policies to replace GITMO before Obama was inaugurated. All they came up with was try them in Civil Courts. Guess what. NY is a deep-blue state and there isn't consensus here about that. Add to the fact that most those in GITMO are prisoners of war captured in battle and it becomes even more difficult.

Should there be trials? Yes. Should these people be kept indefinitely without trial? No. But don't blame Republican intransigence. Have the courage to put the blame on Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi the political leaders of the party in power for two years.

Re:No chance of passing (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43685385)

Re GITMO: Obama had control of the Senate and House for 2 years, plus he can submit an Executive Order. Don't blame anybody but Obama and the Dems if you think GITMO should be closed.

Only partially correct. The opposition to moving GITMO detainees to the United States for trial was widespread and came from both parties. The Senate voted 90-6 to block all funding associated with moving any GITMO prisoners to the US. Blame the Democrats, sure, but also blame the Republicans. Almost nobody in the Senate was willing to see GITMO closed. (See the Associated Press story [webcitation.org] .)

And please, let's put that canard about "control of the Senate and House" to bed. Remember that it takes 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, not 50, if there is even one member of the opposition willing at assert a fillibuster. And Republicans used the filibuster a record number of times in 2009 and 2010. According to the American Enterprise Institute:

"Republicans have ratcheted use of the filibuster up to completely unheard of levels. Look at the things that the House (of Representatives) has passed that can't make it through the Senate. The list just keeps growing," said Norman Ornstein, an expert on Congress at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right policy organization.
(source [mcclatchydc.com] )

The chart accompanying that article shows 112 cloture votes (used to try to end a filibuster) in 2009. The previous record was 61. Blaming Obama and the Democrats for anything on the excuse that they could have passed Program X when they controlled the House and Senate is flatly untrue. At no time during the Obama administration did the Democrats ever have functional control of the House and Senate.

Re:No chance of passing (3, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43686177)

While Obama had majorities in the House and Senate for two years, saying he had control is overstating the situation considerably because his majority in the Senate was not enough to force cloture.

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-06-16/news/ct-oped-0617-zorn-md-20120616_1_minnesota-democrat-al-franken-filibuster-proof-majority-barack-obama [chicagotribune.com]

Re:No chance of passing (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683801)

Maybe the librarian saw that this needed to be codified into law. He/She set the example and authorized it then stopped basically telling Congress to do its job.

Re:No chance of passing (1)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about a year ago | (#43684205)

Mod parent up...the LoC did a great job -- more than anyone else around -- of pushing Congress in the direction of doing the right thing.

Re:No chance of passing (1)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#43683883)

This or any other administration we are likely to see. Neither party is in favor of weakening telecoms and infringing on their 'rights' to do what they like with their customers. While the democrats have more of a reputation for being in the pocket of media+telecom, both parties are heavily influenced by both lobbies.

Re:No chance of passing (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#43685709)

you mean "'rights' to do what they like *TO* their customers"

Re: No chance of passing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43686233)

Its called capitalism. No one forces you to buy a cell phone you dumbass statist. All this bullshiat about forcing private companies to unlock cell phones is pretty much the definition of fascist communism.

Take back America. Ron Paul 2016.

Re:No chance of passing (-1, Troll)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43684169)

Uh... the sponsors of this bill are all Democrats. The reason this won't pass is because the House of Representatives is a bunch of knuckle dragging CISPA voting creationists otherwise known as Republicans.

Re:No chance of passing (2)

Onos (1103517) | about a year ago | (#43685185)

"Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO)" But don't let the facts interrupt your blind support.

Re:No chance of passing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43684313)

Saying that you will or will not do something with lobbyists is easy... the definition is too flexible. Hey, don't post messages like that on /. -- woah, I just lobbied you.

Re:No chance of passing (1)

tatman (1076111) | about a year ago | (#43684705)

Agreed. And not just the administration. Congress is too. During election season congress runs around blabbing they are for the people and as soon as session starts, its back to voting for the people that put campaign $ in their pockets. No matter what party, follow the money $.

Re:No chance of passing (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year ago | (#43684731)

So what? Congress should pass it anyway. If he vetos, he vetos. And then Congress will get to call him an obstructionist for a change, and all his cred will be gone. And if it ever got that far anyway (it probably won't) the critters who prevent an override will be hounded until they lose their re-elections.

You don't simply not try, based on the idea that someone of dubious motive (and dubious level of power) might oppose you. Fight.

Re:No chance of passing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43685019)

So what? Congress should pass it anyway. If he vetos, he vetos. And then Congress will get to call him an obstructionist for a change, and all his cred will be gone. And if it ever got that far anyway (it probably won't) the critters who prevent an override will be hounded until they lose their re-elections.

You don't simply not try, based on the idea that someone of dubious motive (and dubious level of power) might oppose you. Fight.

Maybe I'm not watching the right TV channel, but I got the impression that Congress calls Obama obstructionist all the time. Since he's so unreasonable as to not do everything exactly their way without deviation.

I figure that one of the best things Obama could do for the country at this point is declare National Breathing Day.

One large chunk of the Republication legislature will immediately stop breathing just to spite him.

Another large chunk will have their heads explode from the conflict of having to agree with him.

Another 20 percent or so will claim it was their idea that Obama stole and ruined.

The remaining 6 people might actually buy into it and support it as a bipartisan effort, but 4 of them will probably lose their re-election bids when the folks back home elect a Tea Party extremist replacement.

Re:No chance of passing (4, Informative)

Paul Slocum (598127) | about a year ago | (#43684885)

The White House's official position [whitehouse.gov] is that they support legalization of phone unlocking.

calculation (1, Troll)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43685165)

I think there's a good chance this administration will sign it and take credit for it: it's popular, yet it's largely a meaningless gesture in the US markets (people are still locked into contracts, and most phones are still incompatible between carriers). That's the kind ot stuff the Obama administration loves to do.

very little (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683559)

It conflicts with the current industry notion of the permanent payment.

WTF did he just say? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683563)

"Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased"

MEDIA???? No way the media cartels will give up all the monstrous legislation around copyright circumvention.

Certainly the good Congressman misspoke.

I'll wait for the bill contents... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683605)

to see if the cell phone company's don't try/succeed in adding some sort of loophole to prevent a mass exodus of customers wanting to unlock/switch carriers.

CDMA2000 vs. GSM/UMTS (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43683651)

There already is a loophole. Devices made for CDMA2000 typically can't do GSM/UMTS, nor vice versa. Even within a particular mobile system, carrier-branded devices tend to have the competing carrier's frequency bands blocked off.

Re:CDMA2000 vs. GSM/UMTS (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683709)

There already is a loophole. Devices made for CDMA2000 typically can't do GSM/UMTS, nor vice versa. Even within a particular mobile system, carrier-branded devices tend to have the competing carrier's frequency bands blocked off.

Good point. This is alot like that loophole in the food heating industry. I can't believe you can't turn a toaster into a microwave. I mean they both heat food right.

Re:CDMA2000 vs. GSM/UMTS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683723)

Good point. This is alot like the loophole in the food heating industry. I mean I can't believe I can't turn a toaster into a microwave. They both heat food.

Re:CDMA2000 vs. GSM/UMTS (3, Insightful)

JCHerbsleb (2881347) | about a year ago | (#43683759)

True, but I'd rather have unlocking be a technical barrier and not a legal one.

More than just cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683631)

This is a more general fix for the situation in the DMCA where what you are doing is otherwise legal except for the circumvention part. It doesn't have to be a phone. It could be a tablet, for example. Or some other device.

People should be supporting this with the same kind of enthusiasm that they opposed SOPA. If that could get stopped, then it should be possible to get this passed.

A bit late (5, Interesting)

diakka (2281) | about a year ago | (#43683641)

This bill would have never passed when it actually meant something to consumers. With the plethora of unlocked devices available on the market, T-Mobile has already begun offering favorable deals on no-contract plans where you pay for your own device, so it's only a matter of time before the rest follow suit. If this actually does pass, it just means that the financial incentive to the phone companies was simply too small to justify the cost of supporting a lobby against it.

Re:A bit late (1)

Shanrak (1037504) | about a year ago | (#43683665)

Exactly. I never understood why they bother to lock the phones in the first place. If you have a 2 year contract, they have your money already for that long. Locking the phone doesn't gain them anything. If you want to unlock your phone and go somewhere else, they just get free money out of you since now they don't have to provide you any service.

Paying off a subsidy that's already paid off (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43683701)

I've always heard it explained that U.S. carriers lock the phones so that they can continue to charge still-paying-off-the-subsidy rates even after the 2-year contract has ended.

Re:Paying off a subsidy that's already paid off (2)

diakka (2281) | about a year ago | (#43683829)

That is just the tip of the iceberg. The real benefit to the companies is not just the money they make from one individual customer, but by making contracts standard behavior, it makes the market less fluid and competitive. Customers can't easily switch to a slightly cheaper carrier before the contract is up, and so the carriers can continue to gouge the customers and keep profit margins from thinning out over time.

Re:Paying off a subsidy that's already paid off (4, Informative)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about a year ago | (#43683895)

I've always heard it explained that U.S. carriers lock the phones so that they can continue to charge still-paying-off-the-subsidy rates even after the 2-year contract has ended.

As an American, I can say the following. Those of you who don't live in the USA need to understand that everything is different here. Sometimes in good ways, but maybe most of the time in bad ways. Few Americans travel internationally so the demand for unlocked phones specifically to use them in other countries is quite low. For years, even after you finished a contract AT&T and other providers were rather infamous for refusing to unlock your phones. T-Mobile was an exception to this at the time as they had a policy to unlock your phone if you asked them to do so after your contract ended. Maybe it is different now and everybody unlocks when your contract is up. But perhaps 7-8 years ago, AT&T would tell you to suck it if you asked them unlock a phone after your contract ended with them. By keeping the phones locked, they were able to prevent people from moving to other carriers. Many people keep their phones for years after the original contract is done just to save money and by refusing to unlock them, those people found it cheaper to just stay with the carrier that locked them in than to get a new phone and possibly a new carrier. Also, those of you who don't live in the USA would not believe how much all the phone carriers bitched about being required by law to allow customers to move phone numbers to other carriers when their contracts ended. For years this was not possible, so some people also didn't ever change carriers just so they could keep the same phone number. So all this led to a situation where there was little demand for unlocking.

Re:Paying off a subsidy that's already paid off (5, Interesting)

MrNJ (955045) | about a year ago | (#43684025)

As an American I needed to unlock one of my phone about 2 weeks ago and my ATT contract was not up yet. I called ATT, gave them IMEI and within a minute they gave me an unlock code. I had the same experience previously. Not once was I denied an unlock request. Perhaps if you have the phone by a specific manufacturer, they don't allow unlocking. But it's not ATT's fault.

Re:Paying off a subsidy that's already paid off (3, Insightful)

SuperAlgae (953330) | about a year ago | (#43684321)

I got a fully paid phone (won as a door prize) unlocked by AT&T back around 2005, but I had to go through multiple levels of customer support to do it-- took a lot longer than a minute. It is somewhat surprising that they unlocked a phone for you while still under contract, but technically they don't need the phone to be locked if the contract's early termination fee covers the phone subsidy.

Manufacturers generally have no interest in locking the phone (definitely not to a carrier and often not even the bootloader). It does not benefit them. It's the carriers that want locking and will usually make that a requirement before subsidizing or promoting the phone.

Re:Paying off a subsidy that's already paid off (1)

mrbester (200927) | about a year ago | (#43684083)

This is part of the problem with legislation. It should be a case of "if not explicitly forbidden" (like murder) then it is allowed. You know, freedom and all that. Now there is so much "if not explicitly allowed" (like transferring to a different carrier) then it is forbidden that it muddies the waters unnecessarily.

Instead of adding more contrary viewpoint legislation, existing legislation should be amended to reflect it. In this case it should be "carriers are forbidden from refusing transfers / unlocking". There is no need for extra legislation items to undo existing ones.

However, there is prior art which pretty much knackers this. The prohibition amendment and its repealing one springs to mind.

Re:Paying off a subsidy that's already paid off (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43685047)

it just goes back to the '90s. everything is actually the same, except this one thing: your legislation allowed locked devices and incompatible technologies.

Re:Paying off a subsidy that's already paid off (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43685359)

I haven't had a locked phone in the US in 15 years, and I have used every major carrier. If you buy a locked phone on the "overpriced plan for stupid people", that's really your own fault. On the whole, in my experience, US and European cell phone service end up being fairly comparable in price and performance.

Re:Paying off a subsidy that's already paid off (1)

Technician (215283) | about a year ago | (#43685495)

I took my old ATT phone to the store to have them unlock it. They couldn't be bothered to do it. They did however tell me to Google Free Nokia Unlock codes and do it myself. This is an improvement.

I heard a phone manufacture with rising sales overseas has no US sales because no US carrier will buy them because it has all the carrier's bands in it. The carrier's way to maintain lock-in is to refuse to sell phones that could work on all services.

If you do buy the phone overseas and then sign up in the US on Bring Your Own Device, you can get service for it.

Re:A bit late (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year ago | (#43683707)

Exactly. I never understood why they bother to lock the phones in the first place. If you have a 2 year contract, they have your money already for that long. Locking the phone doesn't gain them anything.

What about pre-paid plans where there is no contract?

Re:A bit late (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | about a year ago | (#43685121)

Exactly. I never understood why they bother to lock the phones in the first place. If you have a 2 year contract, they have your money already for that long. Locking the phone doesn't gain them anything.

What about pre-paid plans where there is no contract?

Umm...they're pre paid? As in, already paid for?

You certainly can't get a hardware subsidy for a prepaid phone, and if you choose not to use your remaining purchased time on the carrier before switching to someone else, why would they care?

The only thing locking the hardware does for them is make it very difficult for their customers to rate shop.

Re:A bit late (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about a year ago | (#43685519)

Umm...they're pre paid? As in, already paid for?

In pre-paid phones what is pre-paid for is the service: the minutes, data, etc..

Just as printer manufacturers can sell printers at a discount knowing that there is a high likelihood (but no contract) that you will buy ink from them, phone companies can discount a locked phone, knowing that there is a high likelihood that you will buy more minutes from them.

Re:A bit late (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43683721)

I never understood why they bother to lock the phones in the first place.

Oh, I can think of some reasons:
1. So they can sell the right to install an app on a phone that a consumer can't get rid of.
2. So they can set up "app stores" that collect a significant cut of whatever the user wants to buy.
3. So they can prevent third parties from creating and selling alternative services to their own products that are cheaper and/or better.
4. To reduce the number of ways a user can mess it up.

Re:A bit late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683889)

#4 is the only valid reason... at least with feature phones. with smart phones, a dumb user is a dumb user and they'll figure out a way fuck it up one way or another.

Re:A bit late (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year ago | (#43683925)

They are all valid reasons from a carriers standpoint. The fact that you don't like them doesn't make them invalid.

Public policy standpoint (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43683959)

The issue here is that what are "valid reasons from a carriers standpoint" may not also be valid reasons from a public policy standpoint. Consider a public policy case from the turn of the century: There were valid reasons from Microsoft's standpoint to put restrictions on companies that buy Windows licenses, install Windows on PCs, and sell the PCs, forbidding them from bundling any web browser other than Internet Explorer. Competition regulators in multiple countries put restrictions on Microsoft's marketing of the included Internet Explorer browser to preserve browser choice in the face of such tying.

Re:Public policy standpoint (1)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year ago | (#43684409)

1. So they can sell the right to install an app on a phone that a consumer can't get rid of. 2. So they can set up "app stores" that collect a significant cut of whatever the user wants to buy. 3. So they can prevent third parties from creating and selling alternative services to their own products that are cheaper and/or better.

While I fully agree that those 3 items are not in the best interest of the customer, I can say that they also aren't "that bad". What you're forgetting is the fact that the average American would rather have ads or extra apps on their phones than pay more money. If you doubt that, let's look at the Kindle. According to Bezos [allthingsd.com] , “No one really buys the non-special offers version,” So if Amazon gives people the choice and very few people pay the extra money to avoid the ads, why so angry at the carriers for forcing the choice on people?

Re:A bit late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43684007)

The fact that the laws are crafted to enhance the telecom's control over my device (and makes me a criminal if I try to regain control) makes them invalid.

Re:A bit late (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | about a year ago | (#43684805)

I never understood why they bother to lock the phones in the first place.

Oh, I can think of some reasons:
1. So they can sell the right to install an app on a phone that a consumer can't get rid of.
2. So they can set up "app stores" that collect a significant cut of whatever the user wants to buy.
3. So they can prevent third parties from creating and selling alternative services to their own products that are cheaper and/or better.
4. To reduce the number of ways a user can mess it up.

I am a horrible slashdotter. I did not simply read the article, I read the fine legislation being proposed - as in the literal bill looking to get passed, as is linked in the article.

As best I can tell, the bill refers to SIM unlocking only, for the purposes of moving a cell phone between carriers. It does not appear to have any accommodations for rooting/jailbreaking/HardSPLing, except to say that you're not infringing if the purpose of rooting your phone is the means to the end of performing a baseband unlock.

My understanding of this bill is that it doesn't completely legitimize rooting/jailbreaking/HardSPLing in its own right. Resultantly, it doesn't address any of the reasons above, since none of the reasons you state have to do with an unlocked baseband.

Re:A bit late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43685193)

I love my phone situation. Unlocked, $350 dollar Nexus 4 on T-Mobile pre-paid, 5GB data limit before throttling, with 10-15Mbps speed data.

Game consoles, for example (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43683695)

With the plethora of unlocked devices available on the market, T-Mobile has already begun offering favorable deals on no-contract plans

Phones aren't the only locked-down devices. Several devices are locked down in a sense even when used on Wi-Fi. These include at least game consoles (PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS) and Apple tablets (iPod touch, iPad mini, iPad), all of which enforce developer qualifications and application restrictions through code signing. I haven't read the bill yet, only the section-by-section summary. But if it does limit the access control provision to facilitating infringement as the summary claims, that would make it easier to convert a locked-down device into a device that respects users' freedom.

Re:Game consoles, for example (2)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year ago | (#43683833)

Phones aren't the only locked-down devices. Several devices are locked down in a sense even when used on Wi-Fi.

You are confusing "locked down" and "locked to a carrier". If you are not interested at all in a phone but you want an iPod, you could look on eBay for a cheap used iPhone. But because it is locked to the carrier it won't work without the right SIM card. Obviously you can't make phone calls without a SIM, but because of the carrier lock, you can't use it at all. You have to find out the carrier, and get a SIM card, in order for the phone to be used just as an iPod. (No big problem in the UK because most carriers will give you a free SIM card, but if you bought one from a foreign country, it won't work).

The bill addresses both (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43683891)

You are confusing "locked down" and "locked to a carrier".

I was addressing diakka's claim that this bill doesn't "actually mean[] something to consumers." The bill appears to address both the concepts of "locked down" and "locked to a carrier".

Re:Game consoles, for example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43685139)

What are the developer qualifications for developing for an iPod touch?

Re:Game consoles, for example (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43685675)

Application developer qualifications for the iPod touch are less strict than those for consoles but more strict than those for Android. You have to become an adult, move to a supported country, replace your current non-Apple PC with a Mac, and buy a developer license that self-destructs after 365 days, all to run programs you wrote on a iDevice that you own. Android, on the other hand, offers Android Debug Bridge at no additional charge on every device that ships with Google Play Store, and application development is possible not only with Eclipse on the PC you are more likely to already have but also with IDEs that run directly on the device. You have to be an adult in a supported country to get a Google Play Store publisher license, but that doesn't self-destruct, and almost all Android devices sold to the public support installing applications distributed outside Google Play Store.

To develop a peripheral for the iPod touch is even more expensive. Hobbyists are explicitly not welcome [apple.com] .

Re:A bit late (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | about a year ago | (#43683711)

Sounds about right. Regardless, some quick consoling thoughts:

"Better late than never"

"A win is a win"

Re:A bit late (2)

Farmer Pete (1350093) | about a year ago | (#43683863)

No offense to T-Mobile users, but T-Mobile and Sprint really aren't playing the same game as ATT and Verizon. I doubt ATT and Verizon will make any changes until either they start loosing market share to T-Mobile or the other of the two makes the change first. Verizon isn't going to change their business model if it's not in their best interest as a company. In this case, their best interests may not be their customers best interests.

way beyond cellphones (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683697)

This bill goes way beyond cellphones. According to the summary posted on the linked article, the bill's text "makes clear that it is not a violation to circumvent a technological measure if the purpose of the circumvention is to use a work in a manner that is not an infringement of copyright." In other words, it neuters the infamous anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA!

Re:way beyond cellphones (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about a year ago | (#43683905)

That's what really interested me. It seems to apply to media as well as phones. Basically, it says that circumvention a DRM scheme isn't against the law if you aren't also breaking copyright. So if you rip a DVD that you legally own (e.g. purchased at a store) and store that rip on your home server for only you to use, you would be within the law. In addition, DVD ripping programs to help people do this would be legal. But ripping a DVD and uploading it to your favorite file sharing program/site would still be illegal (unless you had the copyright owner's permission).

Re:way beyond cellphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683991)

So if you rip a DVD that you legally own (e.g. purchased at a store) and store that rip on your home server for only you to use, you would be within the law.

Are you? Much as I think it's terribly ridiculous and needs massive changes, my understanding of copyright law is that the copyright holder has the right to control the production and distribution of copies of the work. If I rip a DVD, I've created a new copy. This differs from the phone unlocking in that I'm not copying anything, just unlocking the phone to be capable of working on different networks.

Don't get me wrong, I feel that having bought a copy of work A, I should be able to format-shift it in whatever manner I want/need to before I consume it, but I'm not sure if this bill would help in that respect.

Only distribution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43684069)

Only distribution is covered by copyright.

Re:Only distribution. (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43684237)

Only distribution is covered by copyright.

In which country? In the United States, 17 USC 106(1) brings reproduction itself under the scope of copyright.

Re:Only distribution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43685607)

Yes, but reproduction for personal use has already been ruled to be fair use. The anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA is the only thing making it illegal for you to make personal copies of your own media. If there's no DRM, you're solid.

Additionally, the right of first-sale allows you to redistribute the original copy; just don't redistribute without destroying your copies.

MAI v. Peak (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43685777)

reproduction for personal use has already been ruled to be fair use.

Even reproduction by loading a work into RAM was ruled an infringement in MAI Systems v. Peak Computer because the repair technician who turned the machine on wasn't the same person as "the owner of a copy". This led to a narrow carve-out to address the facts of that case, an amendment to section 117 enacted as a rider to the DMCA.

If you have a citation the other way for works other than sound recordings, I'd like to see it. RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia doesn't appear to count so much because sound recordings have their own narrow exception in section 1008 that doesn't apply to works in other media.

Re:way beyond cellphones (1)

mrbester (200927) | about a year ago | (#43684127)

That would be the "fair use" legislation that already exists, allowing you to make a backup copy, right?

Re:way beyond cellphones (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | about a year ago | (#43684177)

Yes, absolutely. However, it needs to be made clear that this is still the case despite the DMCA, hence the bill "makes clear that it is not a violation".

Re:way beyond cellphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43685821)

Exactly. As the law currently exists, it's kind of like you're licensed to drive your car on the roads... but you're not legally allowed to circumvent a spike strip (encryption) installed at the bottom of your driveway. You're also not legally allowed to create or distribute a device to circumvent that spike strip even if you're not the one doing the circumvention.

All of which is dumb if you've paid for a license to drive on those roads.

Re:way beyond cellphones (1)

Grizzley9 (1407005) | about a year ago | (#43684199)

That would be the "fair use" legislation that already exists, allowing you to make a backup copy, right?

Any "fair use" possibilities get stopped by the DMCA because if it's an encrypted disc you have to first break the encryption which is not protected by fair use.

Re:way beyond cellphones (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year ago | (#43684803)

So if you rip a DVD that you legally own (e.g. purchased at a store)

Hey guys, just wanna step in on a tiny little issue here. The word is "play" not "rip." DMCA doesn't contain a single word that relates, in any way, to what happens to the data after it has been descrambled, or why you were doing that. Indeed, that was the whole problem in the first place. Whether you immediately send the plaintext to a video decoder and show it on the screen, or write the plaintext to a file for more convenient playback later, are legally identical right now: that is, they're illegal unless you have secured authorization from the copyright holder.

I don't know about you, but back in the day I bought a lot of DVDs, and not a single one of them says anywhere on the packaging or label, that I'm authorized to play it. This bill would make that irrelevant.

Re:way beyond cellphones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43686005)

You purchased a license to play the encrypted DVD when you bought your DVD player. If you didn't pay the license fee, then you have no right to play the encrypted content. You see this issue come up when you purchase cheap OEM DVD drives that don't include DVD software to decrypt the disks.

Most people have broadly interpreted the DMCA to mean that you can't strip the original encryption from any copy that you make, but this is often required for you to make the copy in the first place.

One company found a way to make copies while keeping the encryption intact, and got sued [cnet.com] for their trouble.
Their DVD jukeboxes were ultimately ruled to be legal, [boingboing.net] due to a technicality in their license agreement.

Re:way beyond cellphones (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#43685691)

When part of the definition of "infringing on copyright" now includes the circumvention of such technological measures anyways, such verbiage is itself rendered just as neutered as you suggest it might do to the DMCA itself

He needs to make some changes. (0)

gnasher719 (869701) | about a year ago | (#43683743)

... If consumers are not violating copyright or some other law,

It was always the case that phone unlocking would be against the DMCA. For many years there was a DMCA exemption that allowed unlocking even though it was against the DMCA, that is not gone. So unlocking _does_violate copyright.

So Rep. Lofgren has to change his bill a bit: To declare the act of unlocking your phone not a copyright violation.

Re:He needs to make some changes. (1)

nmoore (22729) | about a year ago | (#43683877)

It doesn't violate copyright, it violates the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions—exactly the thing that the current proposal would change. Part of the proposed change:

It shall not be a violation of this section to circumvent a technological measure in connection with a work protected under this title if the purpose of such circumvention is to engage in a use that is not an infringement of copyright under this title.

Circumventing an access control measure was never (by itself) an "infringement of copyright": It is a separate offense created by the DMCA.

Re:He needs to make some changes. (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about a year ago | (#43684273)

It shall not be a violation of this section to circumvent a technological measure in connection with a work protected under this title if the purpose of such circumvention is to engage in a use that is not an infringement of copyright under this title.

Yep, that's going to have to be stricken from the final bill.

-- MPAA

Re:He needs to make some changes. (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year ago | (#43684917)

So unlocking _does_violate copyright.

No. Violating DMCA and infringing copyright are two different, distinct things. Unlocking phones doesn't, and never has, involve infringing copyright. DMCA prohibited a bunch of non-infringing activities; it did not redefine what was infringing. It's part of the same "title" of US Code as copyright, but it's not the same thing as copyright. HTH.

Once burned, twice wary. (1)

woboyle (1044168) | about a year ago | (#43683749)

My best guess is that a bunch of our "brilliant" legislators have been burned by this (unlockable phones) and are now going to do something about it! :rolleyes:

Re:Once burned, twice wary. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43683831)

Not them, there kids.

Re:Once burned, twice wary. (1)

woboyle (1044168) | about a year ago | (#43683907)

Yeah. Definitely a possibility! :-)

Dear Congress.... (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43683843)

Simply Repeal the DMCA. Making NEW laws to fix broken ones is not the answer. Start repealing laws that have no use except to force an iron fist around consumers.

Repeal OCILLA and Viacom can sue YouTube again (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43683917)

Simply Repeal the DMCA.

Please be careful in how you phrase that. The DMCA is a bundle of several independent pieces of copyright-related legislation. Repealing the DMCA as a whole would repeal not only the anticircumvention provisions (17 USC 1201) but also the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (17 USC 512), which protects YouTube and other service providers from liability for its users' infringement. Viacom would have cause to sue YouTube.

Re:Dear Congress.... (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about a year ago | (#43683933)

Well, yes, but I'm willing to support this as an interim step (since the actual repeal of the DMCA is a pipe dream at the moment). I think this will have enormous opposition from the content industry and it will take a Herculean effort for this common sense bill to prevail.

Too differing wireless frequencies (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43684091)

If they're talking about unlocking cell phones from a specific carrier, that almost doesn't matter anymore. With each carrier getting different 4G/LTE frequencies it's physically impossible to easily switch. So few phones are pentaband and all that, the device availability of phones that work on multiple carriers at the fully rated speed is next to nil. If I have to use 2G/3G as a result of switching, I'm definitely ditching my phone and buying a new one at the new carrier.

This is quite sad after the glorious standardization that was GSM/GPRS. Spectrum sales are bad for freedom.

Telcos time to act (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43684139)

Now we'll learn if the US cell providers have been paying enough in "campaign contributions" to kill this off.

A big thank you to the Librarian of Congress (1)

GlobalEcho (26240) | about a year ago | (#43684303)

This outcome is exactly what the Librarian of Congress sought when he withdrew the DMCA exemption for cellphones, and I'm thrilled it's working out like this. Many people here complained at the time, but it was obvious to many others how useful the withdrawal would ultimately be.

Had he continued the exemption, the cause of locked hardware would have remained uninteresting to the public, and ignored by Congress. Now, we have a fighting chance at rational legislation.

This bill is an *excellent* bugfix (3, Informative)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year ago | (#43684429)

Seriously, read it [house.gov] . It starts out by truly fixing some of the most egregious brain damage and expansiveness of DMCA, making it into a legitimate copyright law. The cellphone unlocking technicality is just one a thousand bugs this fixes; the bill would also legalize making/selling/using ink cartridges, legalize the playing the DVDs that you have bought, etc. If DMCA had passed originally in this form, it would be much less destructive and hated.

After the first part, then it looks like it does something benevolent related to phones specifically, but to some code I'm unfamiliar with. Then it takes a shot at WIPO.

Overall, this is a no-brainer, and anyone who opposes it, will be outed. That means they'll kill it in some committee, but just in case they don't, remember names and who votes for/against. Reward and punish, based on this one, right here.

Re:This bill is an *excellent* bugfix (1)

rwyoder (759998) | about a year ago | (#43684565)

Seriously, read it [house.gov] . It starts out by truly fixing some of the most egregious brain damage and expansiveness of DMCA, making it into a legitimate copyright law. The cellphone unlocking technicality is just one a thousand bugs this fixes; the bill would also legalize making/selling/using ink cartridges, legalize the playing the DVDs that you have bought, etc. If DMCA had passed originally in this form, it would be much less destructive and hated.

After the first part, then it looks like it does something benevolent related to phones specifically, but to some code I'm unfamiliar with. Then it takes a shot at WIPO.

Overall, this is a no-brainer, and anyone who opposes it, will be outed. That means they'll kill it in some committee, but just in case they don't, remember names and who votes for/against. Reward and punish, based on this one, right here.

Pssst! Jared Polis is already "out". ;-)

Re:This bill is an *excellent* bugfix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43684865)

Don't worry, there will be revisions to this bill that "fix" the DRM issues with respect to MAFIAA sponsored things.

Re:This bill is an *excellent* bugfix (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year ago | (#43685009)

You know what? That would be unfortunate and really stupid of the MAFIAA to do that, and yet, if it happened... ok. The scope of DMCA's bullshit is so much wider than the MAFIAA's tiny little suicidal industries. If they want to stay out of the market for a few more years by buying some exemption to common sense, fine. Fuck 'em. But it's not like people who want to legally play their videos, are the only people who have lived under the constant threat of DMCA.

I just don't want to see the bugfix narrowed so much that it only applies to phones. It seems like phones are what is giving the cause the publicity to get mainstream support (Slashdot's headline for this is just crazy!), but it better not just be phones that get saved, or I'll be mad. I'll be a mad guy on the Internet! I might even post an angry comment on Slashdot! ;-)

Oh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43684617)

While they are at it, maybe they should make a law to making it legal for you to open your refrigerator, or your turn on your television.

It's MY device, MY property (NOT leased), and I will do whatever I want with it...PERIOD! I don't need any law telling me that I can.

Wrong approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43685201)

They should not be making it legal to unlock phones. They should make it illegal for companies to lock phones in the first place.

Now is the time to write your Congresscritter (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43685301)

If there has ever been something un-american and un-capitalist, then this ban on unlocking. It is anti-competition and anti-innovation, it keeps people from doing their job in a capitalist world (awarding money to those that provide them with the best product) and generally, voting against the ban pretty much means that you're either un-american or in the pockets of some media concern.

Now try to weasel out of that one!

HA! (1)

rjr162 (69736) | about a year ago | (#43685533)

I had actually contacted BOTH my state senators about this.. and it was actually the republican's office who told me about the democrat who was introduction a bill along these lines.. and I'm glad to see this news!

Better outlaw locking the devices (1)

kasperd (592156) | about a year ago | (#43686277)

Any artificial limitation, which puts somebody else's economic interests ahead of the interests of the owner of the device, should not have been legal in the first place.

A digital camera, which cannot store more than 30 pictures on a 128MB storage card when using the best quality setting is a limitation which exists for a good technical reason. Such a limitation is not artificial, and thus shouldn't be outlawed. But a digital camera that can only take panorama photos as long as they are stored on a storage card bought from the same vendor and not if the storage card was bought from a different vendor is an artificial limitation, which does not benefit the owner of the camera in any way. It must surely have been a little bit of extra work to implement the limitation in the first place, which is what characterizes artificial limitations.

Limitations which are there for safety reasons or to improve durability of the device are fine. For example storage media have extra capacity to compensate for imperfections in the media. That the logical capacity is less than the physical capacity is in the owner's interest, because otherwise the lifetime of the device would be significantly reduced. (It is also in the vendor's interest in order to reduce RMA cases. In some countries vendor's are subject to a minimum two year warranty.)
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