New Bill Aims to Make Mobile Device Unlocking Permanently Legal In The US
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has come under attack by a newly-proposed legislation. The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 seeks to legalize the unlocking of cellphones, as well as clarifying that the DMCA should only apply in cases where circumventing digital rights management or other copyright systems will aid in copyright infringement itself.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie, Rep. Anna Eshoo, Rep. Jared Polis, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren states it would amend part of the DMCA to so that it would not be a violation "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." It then goes on to permit the creation of tools for circumvention that are primarily used for non-infringing purposes.
Though the bill would at first glance make cellphone unlocking legal without the need for the Library of Congress nor the US Copyright Office to intervene, it also opens up a number of other copyright-related areas. For example, the ripping of DVDs for storage on a media server would become legal for personal use, but sharing it with others would not.
"This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives," said Rep. Lofgren in a statement. "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."
Part of the bill deals with the various trade agreements that would be broken by this change to the DMCA. The bill states "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."