The executive branch of the U.S. federal government has cast its lot with entrepreneur Sina Khanifar and the 114,000 who signed Khanifar's petition legalizing the unlocking of cellphones.
In a response to the petition—which Khanifar started along with former Republican staffer Derek Khanna—White House adviser David Edelman posted a statement declaring that the White House agrees that consumers should be able to unlock their cellphones without risking criminal or other penalties. Edelman said the White House also believes the same principal should apply to tablets.
Khanifar started the petition in January with the goal of reversing a decision by the Librarian of Congress that the unlocking of cell phones would be removed from the exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It is currently illegal to unlock a cellphone purchased after Jan. 26. The offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Edelman said the Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space. The Obama Administration also believes that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also has an important role to play in legalizing the unlocking of cellphones, Edelman wrote. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Monday (March 4) circulated comments on his concern about mobile phone unlocking.
Edelman also said the White House would urge mobile providers to "consider what steps they as businesses can take to ensure that their customers can fully reap the benefits and features they expect when purchasing their devices."
"This is a big victory for consumers, and I'm glad to have played a part in it," Khanifar said in an emailed statement.
Khanifar said a lot of people were skeptical when he originally started the petition, with many saying petitions don't get results. "The optimist in me is really glad to have proved them wrong," Khanifar said. "The White House just showed that they really do listen, and that they're willing to take action."
Khanifar said the "real culprit" is Section 1201 of the DMCA. He said he discussed with Edelman the potential of a push to have that provision amended or removed and said the White House wants to continue the discussion. Khanifar pledged to immediately start work on a campaign to support the revision or removal of this provision.
It makes no sense for the act of unlocking a phone to be criminal. The carrier gets their pound of flesh one way or the other. If I want to change carriers after the contract has expired, it should be my right. They have a chance to win my business, but not at the prices they charge.
Competely disagree. The party in contract is still legally bound to either (1) pay 2 years of service fees or (2) pay the ( generally overpriced) cancellation fee. These options cover the provider financially. Meaning, they see NO ADDITIONAL money from the customer regardless if they unlock or even sell their new phone.
Excellent point on the subsidized phone. But that wouldn't come under copyright infringement, as far as I can figure.
It would make more sense to write a law preventing the unlocking of phones until or unless the user owns the phone outright.
There are two issues. The phone device itself and the service provided to make the phone useful. By combining the two issues under a sales package, the service providers are trying to force the consumer to use only their service. Making the phone a separate device so that the owner can select which service to use falls into a fair use idea, which the US has long supported, so it is no surprise that the white house supports the idea.
The service providers are just trying to make you think you are being bad when you try to switch your device to another carrier. The technology supports either, so I do not think the service providers have a solid position here.
Just my opinion.
There is a certain reasonableness to the concept of legal restrictions on users' rights with respect to subsidized cell phones -- the consumer doesn't yet fully own the phone in that case.
But with phones retained beyond the 2-year subsidy period, or purchased at retail with no service contract and no subsidy, the consumer then owns the phone in every respect and should be free to do whatever he/she wants with it -- change the software, change the hardware, drop it in a bucket of water, set it on fire or whatever -- just as with any other electronic product that has been purchased free and clear.
I can't begin to understand what copyright infringement could be taking place here. What has been allowed to go on, instead, has been overt collusion between equipment manufacturers and the service providers.
Let's say you buy an interesting bottle of Caberenet Sauvignon. After you're done with the content, you decide to pour water into that same bottle. Would you expect the feds to lock you up and fine you thousands of dollars? In a civilized country? Come now.
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