After months of debate, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that makes cellphone unlocking legal for individuals, but also includes a poison pill for those that provide such services independently as third-party businesses.
In its current form, HR 1123 allows individuals to freely unlock their devices, but the bill also includes language that would ban “bulk unlocking” under the anti-circumvention rules spelled out in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, meaning that those that have businesses dedicated to unlocking devices would no longer be legally allowed to operate in the US.
Because of the amendment to the aforementioned bill, many previous proponents have now withdrawn support for the bill and are asking the House to reconsider and the Senate to consider an alternate bill in HR 1892, the Unlocking Technology Act as sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren ,which includes needed changes to the DMCA that would exclude both individual and bulk forms of device unlocking from the anti-circumvention clauses in the act. Below, a statement from policy organization Public Knowledge on the latest development:
“While the bill still allows a number of consumers to unlock their own devices, the amended version fails to address the flawed law at the root of the unlocking problem: the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
“The new language specifically excluding bulk unlocking could indicate that the drafters believe that phone unlocking has something to do with copyright law. This is not a position we support. Even if Congress believes that bulk unlocking is a problem, it’s clear that it’s not a copyright problem, just as individual unlocking is not a copyright problem. A bill designed to scale back overreaching copyright laws should not also endorse an overreach of copyright law.”
Currently, the FCC and carriers are also implementing their own amended unlocking rules related to devices sold by carriers in the US, in a bid to improve public perception regarding device freedom.