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Senator Working on Bill To Make Phone Unlocking Legal Again

After the FCC said that it planned to investigate a recent decision to make smartphone unlocking illegal, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said that she is introducing legislation this week that will re-enable consumers the ability to unlock their phones. Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and chairs the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee.

The announcement arrives after the White House responded to a WeThe People petition urging the Obama administration to reverse the unlocking decision, agreeing that consumers should have the right to use their phones on a different carrier once the contract is fulfilled. As it stands now, consumers face a $500,000 fine and up to 5 years in prison if found liable.

"Consumers should be free to choose the phone and service that best fits their needs and their budgets," Klobuchar said on Tuesday. "We need to make sure consumers are getting a fair deal and today’s announcement is a welcome step towards implementing consumer-friendly policies in the wireless industry. That’s why I’m introducing legislation this week to get rid of the ban on unlocking cell phones."

The controversy began in January when the Library of Congress allowed an exemption of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, to lapse. It actually expired in October 2012, but a grace period allowed the government to renew the exemption before the end of January. The exemption was added to the DMCA just after it went into effect so that unlocking smartphones wouldn't be illegal. Now consumers who purchase a smartphone after January 2013 cannot move the device to another carrier even if the contract is fulfilled.

"If you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network," said White House Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, & Privacy David Edelman. "It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs."

Senator Klobuchar said she will continue to work to advance commonsense measures to protect consumers and promote competition.

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  • Unolocogringo
    A bill with merits. But will the idiots in congress pass it?

    Probably not they receive too much money from the big corps.
    Reply
  • hrhuffnpuff
    Give this Senator, with a brain, a nickel raise (They already make way too much for way too little)!
    Reply
  • bucknutty
    Why the hell would we need congress to pass a bill about what we can or can’t do with our private, rented or leased property in the first place? Furthermore why the hell would the punishment for using the device incorrectly be half a million dollars or 5 years in prison? I know a guy at a used car lot that got arrested and charged with like 15 counts of fraud for turning back the odometers on cars. His fines were about equivalent to the value of all the cars he sold fraudulently. But I guess a phone is a much bigger purchase, and much more of a safety concern than a car, so the $500,000 sound fair……Stupid.
    Reply
  • pedro_mann
    I'm just hoping this passes so that the people that contribute to xda-developers.com don't become "criminals" over night. It is a bit ridiculous. With passage of this legislation, their work would be protected under this clause. Liability would then be shifted to the individual consumer to make sure the tools are used properly.
    Reply
  • fuzzion
    A new low for congress, aside from sticking head into their arses
    Reply
  • pedro_mann
    bucknuttyWhy the hell would we need congress to pass a bill about what we can or can’t do with our private, rented or leased property in the first place? Furthermore why the hell would the punishment for using the device incorrectly be half a million dollars or 5 years in prison? I know a guy at a used car lot that got arrested and charged with like 15 counts of fraud for turning back the odometers on cars. His fines were about equivalent to the value of all the cars he sold fraudulently. But I guess a phone is a much bigger purchase, and much more of a safety concern than a car, so the $500,000 sound fair……Stupid.
    I sort of agree with your point, but this is a terrible example to illustrate it. If I as a consumer was defrauded by a used car salesman, he probably deserves some sort of punishment. Likewise, to have a punishment that is unsuitable for the crime is also ridiculous. If I simply want to unlock my device so I can get updates to an OS that is given out for free, but the carriers are too lazy to do so, then we should be able to unlock the device, regardless of payment or contract status. Also, to set the fine at $500,000 for that is a bit ridiculous. It should be no more than twice the value of the contract in my opinion. So somewhere around $2,400 would be a fitting punishment.

    I do think that this new legislation is actually a good idea, but would not be necessary if our copyright system/DMCA wasn't as badly broken as it is.

    A good idea would be to vote with your dollars and simply buy a Nexus branded device that actually gets software support, doesn't come preloaded with junk apps that can't be removed, you can actually use NFC if it is included on your device, unlike verizon's effort to block that service etc. The only reason left after that is the switching carriers issue. That one is why we need this legislation.
    Reply
  • Naturally i want to say that the Supreme Court can just struck down the 5year and .5 million fine as unconstitutional, but then again after citizen united, i just don't see the pro-business judges agreeing that its cruel and unusual punishment.
    Reply
  • spectrewind
    Rick_CriswellA bill with merits. But will the idiots in congress pass it? Probably not they receive too much money from the big corps.
    Unfortunately, exactly correct. Crony capitalism is the 'thud' hitting and making the USA move fwd today.
    Reply
  • vmem
    spectrewindUnfortunately, exactly correct. Crony capitalism is the 'thud' hitting and making the USA move fwd today.
    not 100% crony capitalism. you have to remember, however fraudulent the campaign, people voted these guys into office. honestly if you can't be bothered to check a senator or house member's past voting record, or you're too stupid to know that everyone should get their news from more than one source, you shouldn't be voting... but alas, with the funding cuts we won't have much of an education system to teach people that...
    Reply
  • smeezekitty
    Wow that was quick. Fingered crossed that this gets implemented properly and passed.
    Reply