DMCA Amendment Seeks To End Unfair Illegal Smartphone Unlocking Law

In October 2012 the members of Congress introduced a universal cell phone unlocking law. Immediately customers and consumer advocacy groups blasted the bill for making it illegal to unlock a smartphone.

Now, a new amendment to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) aims to end the illegal practice of unlocking cell phone. The bill known as the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 aims to clarify that the DMCA should only apply in cases where circumventing digital rights management or other copyright systems would directly aid in copyright infringement.

The new DMCA amendment is sponsored by Representative Thomas Massie, Representative Anna Eshoo, Representative Jared Polis, and Representative Zoe Lofsgren.

Under the new law it would not be a violation of the original act “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.”

The DMCA amendment would allow developers to create unlocked tools and other technological tools that are not meant to be used for non-infringing purposes of copyright.

Not only would the bill circumvent the universally stupid Library of Congress and US Copyright Office ruling from October 2013, it would also open up other copyright related uses. For example, users would be able to rip a DVD for storage on a media server while sharing that data would still remain illegal.

In a statement regarding the bill Representative Lofgren writes:

“This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives. Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased.” Rep Massie claims “This bill rolls back excessive and out-dated prohibitions on otherwise lawful innovations that promote marketplace competition.”

The bill would change parts of the DMCA’s trade agreements and therefore includes the following clause:

“The president shall take the necessary steps to secure modifications to applicable bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to which the United States is a part in order to ensure that such agreements are consistent with the amendments made by this act.”

Customers have long complained about the cell phone unlocking bill because wireless companies are still allowed to charge an early termination fee if customers leave because their contract is completed. Customers in the meantime can not take the phone they just paid for to another carrier.

Do you think making cell phone unlocking illegal was a bad decision on behalf of the Library of Congress.