Any minute now President Obama is going to sign the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act” into law (it’s scheduled for 3:45 ET today). The bill reinstates an exemption for unlocking cellphones in the Digital Millennium opyright Act, and moves unlocking cellphones from a legal grey area back to lawfullness.
My original petition did a lot to kick off the process, but it took about a year and a half of negotiating with stakeholders, going back and forth with congressional staffers, and pushing back against the CTIA to get to an actual law.
The bill is a great step forwards, but it’s far from perfect. We had to make a lot of compromises along the way. For one thing, it’s not a permanent fix. In 2015, the Librarian of Congress will make another rulemaking and decide the fate of unlocking once again. I asked repeatedly for Congress to make the exemption permanent, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren even introduced the excellent “Unlocking Technology Act of 2013” that would have done just that. Unfortunately, Congress wasn’t ready to deal with the underlying copyright issue: the DMCA’s controversial §1201 anti-circumvention provisions. Doing so would require amending the law’s controversial anti-circumvention provisions, a step that’s desperately needed.
It’s not too late for Congress to pass real reform along the lines of Zoe Lofgren’s bill. I’ll continue to push for that change as part of my campaign at FixtheDMCA.org. In the meanwhile, I’ll be taking a quick break to celebrate tonight, and consumers have another year and half to unlock their devices. Hopefully the Librarian of Congress will have better sense than to deny an unlocking exemption again - congress sent a very clear message that unlocking should be legal by overturning a DMCA rulemaking for the first time in the law’s history.
Helping get a law passed has been a really interesting process, and I’m glad to have been a part of it.