U.S. lawmaker introduces bill to legalize cellphone unlocking

The Wireless Device Independence Act would allow consumers to "unlock cell phones for interoperability purposes"

A U.S. senator has proposed a bill that will allow consumers to unlock cellphones for use in other networks, after the administration of President Barack Obama backed over 114,000 petitioners who asked the government to legalize the unlocking of smartphones.

"You bought it, you should be able to use it. My Wireless Device Independence Act ensures you can unlock your device," said Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, in a Twitter message on Tuesday.

The proposed "Wireless Device Independence Act of 2013'' aims to amend Section 1201(a)(1)(B) of title 17 of the United States Code which deals with circumvention of copyright protection systems.

It would exclude from the application of a provision relating to circumvention of technological measures persons who use a program, in the form of firmware or software, to enable a wireless telephone handset, or other wireless device that can connect to the Internet, to be connected to a different wireless telecommunications network from that of the operator it was originally acquired from. The user will need to legally own the software program and also be authorized to access the telecommunications network.

Petitioners on the White House forum "We The People" asked the Librarian of Congress to rescind an October, 2012 decision to remove the unlocking of mobile phones from legal exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Buyers of smartphones and tablets should be able to unlock their devices "without risking criminal or other penalties," R. David Edelman, White House senior adviser for Internet, innovation and privacy, wrote in response to the petition on Monday.

The Obama administration would support a range of approaches to addressing the issue, including legislation and action by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, he wrote.

The petitioners asked the Obama administration to ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind its decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said on Monday that the commission was looking into whether his agency, wireless providers, or others should take action to preserve consumers' ability to unlock their mobile phones. "I also encourage Congress to take a close look and consider a legislative solution," he added.

The officials must consider whether the evidence establishes a need for the exemption based on several statutory factors, the Library of Congress said in a statement, apparently passing the decision to change the rules to lawmakers or the administration.

Other lawmakers have also come out in support of changes to the law to make it easier for users to unlock their phones.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags telecommunicationconsumer electronicsLibrary of CongresssmartphoneslegalU.S. Federal Communications Commission

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?