Even USA Today Is Wondering Why Copyright Law Is So Broken That It Locks Up Mobile Phones

from the speak-out dept

You know the issue of the broken anti-circumvention rules in the DMCA are going mainstream when even USA Today is writing editorials condemning the whole thing as an archaic bit of copyright law that makes little sense today. It is, of course, focusing mainly on the question of unlocking mobile phones that has brought the issue forward lately, but USA Today's editorial board doesn't just focus on the unlocking question, but notes how ridiculous our copyright laws are that lead to this result:
Even more than criticism, the announcement prompted bewilderment. Just what is the Library of Congress doing regulating cellphone service, anyway?

Good question. There really isn't a good answer, other than that wireless providers have managed to get the Library of Congress, which oversees the U.S. Copyright Office, to do their bidding.

A better answer is to take the Library of Congress out of the business of being the industry's contract enforcer.
Indeed. They go further, though, in noting that the use of the anti-circumvention clause to lock up physical goods is a clear bastardization of copyright law, and should be fixed.
When Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998, the goal was to help digital content providers — such as musicians, filmmakers and software companies — prevent illegal pirating of their works.

To state the obvious, people don't unlock phones to steal copyrighted material. They do it to allow their phones to work on other networks.

[....] When Congress' librarian starts behaving like the new sheriff in town, consumers have good reason to suspect the law is stacked against them.
CTIA (representing the mobile industry), who has been pushing against exempting mobile phone unlocking, hit back with a weak retort that "people like discounted phones." Well, fine, then offer discounted phones. You can still do it. That doesn't give you an excuse to abuse copyright law to lock up phones.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Atkray (profile), Mar 25th, 2013 @ 3:36pm

    Uh Mike

    "but notes who ridiculous our copyright laws are"

    I think who is supposed to be how.


    I think it is great that these issues are getting more widespread attention. Now the trick is getting Congress to a: notice, and b: do the correct thing for the people.

     

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  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    out_of_the_blue, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 4:38pm

    Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    What if someone finds how to circumvent their security? As you guys frequently say, the system that can't be cracked is yet to be written, SO it's quite logical for a telco to want to limit its exposed area by controlling the OS in your phone.

    I don't think you, Mike, have ever considered this actual need for control, as you never seem to imagine that bad actors exist. Whether mega-corporations or "hax0rs" modiffiying their phones, you just assume that all is open and above board.



    Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up same place!
    http://techdirt.com/
    A Techdirt Axiom: Mike once quipped "Streisand Effect" = he's an authority on copyright. And phones. Whatever.
    12:37:52[n-370-7]

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Ed C., Mar 25th, 2013 @ 4:39pm

    Re: Uh Mike

    I'm sure Congress has noticed, it's just that the ROI from the CTIA is still greater than the pro-consumer groups.

    And people used to complain that government should be run more like a business. Well, be careful what you wish for.

     

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  4.  
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    memphis_slim.RU, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 4:42pm

    Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    Idiot. In Europe ALL phone are sold unlocked.

     

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  5.  
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    Ed C., Mar 25th, 2013 @ 4:48pm

    Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    Actually, Mike frequently notes that bad actors exist. Get a clue blue.

    Telcos wouldn't have to worry about users jailbreaking their phones to make legal use of the product they purchased if the phones weren't locked to their network in the first place. It was their own actions that created the mess in the first place.

     

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  6.  
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    Ed C., Mar 25th, 2013 @ 4:51pm

    Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    At least a few countries figured out that "free market" doesn't mean corporate plutocracy.

     

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  7.  
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    doink, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 4:55pm

    Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    You're confusing locking with rooting. Currently, rooting a phone and putting different software on it is not being prevented.

    Unlocking and switching carriers is being prevented.

     

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  8.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Mar 25th, 2013 @ 4:56pm

    So you're telling me we don't need copyright laws to enforce contract law? I suppose next you'll tell me the Food and Drug Administration has no business enforcing Security and Exchange Comission regulations.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 5:14pm

    Curious why the lack of understanding of the DMCA by USA Today is not challenged here? Perhaps the article is "useful" FUD, so no challenge in deemed necessary.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 5:19pm

    Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    Just because free men can do bad things doesn't mean we should take away their liberties when they haven't done bad things.

    By out of the blue logic logic we should have physical rights management to stop you from putting anything other than chesse on burgers because some people might put poison on them

     

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  11.  
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    Wally (profile), Mar 25th, 2013 @ 5:23pm

    Re:

    "So you're telling me we don't need copyright laws to enforce contract law? I suppose next you'll tell me the Food and Drug Administration has no business enforcing Security and Exchange Comission regulations."

    Tell us, in your opinion, what does the US Library of Congress (whose only job pertains to copyright) have to do with telecommunications? I'm quite curious about how you can come to this conclusion.

    The point is that subsidized phones, after a year of payments in a contract, end up costing more than what you would have paid for an unlocked phone. $75 a month for a year (12 months) is $900. Tach on another $30 activation fee....$960. A 64GB unlocked iPhone 5 costs $849. You end up paying more than $100 extra...

    Tell us how that's not ripping people off... Especially when you have only 30 days to get a response back from your carrier to actually unlock your device?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 5:34pm

    Re:

    Because it is not relevant in this context Troll.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 5:36pm

    Re: Re:

    "Tell us, in your opinion, what does the US Library of Congress (whose only job pertains to copyright) have to do with telecommunications? I'm quite curious about how you can come to this conclusion."

    It doesn't, which is one reason why the USA Today article propounds misinformation, a disparity that should have been noted in the article posted here.

    Just an aside, but in the recent presentations to the Register of Copyright it is reported that those supporting the unlocking of phones were basically a "no-show". Because the Register is required to act upon the evidentiary record before her, those having an interest in "unlocking" have no one to blame but themselves. Maybe next time they will take the proceeding seriously.

     

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  14.  
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    Reality Check (profile), Mar 25th, 2013 @ 5:37pm

    Re: Re:

    I think your sarcasm detection chip is malfunctioning.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 6:11pm

    Re: Uh Mike

    Well, if corperations can be people, then there's no reason a law can't have personhood

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 6:21pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Nah we should just throw copyright out.

    Why give others a monopoly when we don't get nothing in return?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 6:45pm

    Re: Re:

    I take it that the DMCA and associated administrative processes are not your strong suit. When those who support copyright make glaring errors as appear in the USA Today article, this site leaves no stone unturned mocking them for being "ignorant". The fact nothing was mentioned here about those errors is quite telling.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 7:44pm

    Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    "Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.
    What if someone finds how to circumvent their security?"

    Why don't you turn control of your computer over to you Internet Provider then since the same exact principles apply.

    "hax0rs modiffiying their phones"

    Note the all important word *THEIR* phones.

    Take a loopy tour of Out of The Blue's comments.

     

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  19.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 7:50pm

    Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    @ "You're confusing locking with rooting. Currently, rooting a phone and putting different software on it is not being prevented.

    Unlocking and switching carriers is being prevented."

    Point taken. Made a LONG jump there that I shouldn't have without at least outlining.

    I was thinking on a technical reason WHY they'd need to lock everything. My point was that phones contain hardware that securely interrogates the SIM card (or other hardware). So does assumes a basic level of uniformity for security purposes that in theory might be bypassed IF the full resources of a gadget can be directed to nefarious purposes.

    Simply for malicious mischief, suppose a phone were modified to connect to the tower just long enough to tie it up then disconnect, and repeat. Other notions will occur to the malicious, therefore telcos have a valid interest in locking down the OS -- besides a not so valid one for locking in customers.

     

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  20.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 8:02pm

    Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    @"Why don't you turn control of your computer over to you Internet Provider then since the same exact principles apply."

    For once a good point from an AC. Read my expansion above for part of my concerns.

    On the exact point: that's not the bargain made with my ISP, totally different situation. But for sure they'd like to take control!

    I'm not concerned about phones (meaning gigahertz band walkies-talkies) because to me they're rarely used appliances, so I'd first find a carrier and be content "locked in". Difference of philosophy, as in nowadays you kids can't even shop for groceries without consulting someone by cell phone.

    >>> Note the all important word *THEIR* phones. -- YES, it's YOUR phone. But no telco allows you to freely use your phone on THEIR network. -- That confusion between yours and theirs is a frequent problem with you kids who think that the world revolves around you.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 8:09pm

    Ben Franklin said it best...

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a discounted phone, deserve neither liberty nor a discount."

    The man was really ahead of his time :)

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 8:11pm

    Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    @ "Just because free men can do bad things doesn't mean we should take away their liberties when they haven't done bad things.

    By out of the blue logic logic we should have physical rights management to stop you from putting anything other than chesse on burgers because some people might put poison on them"

    First, it's a phone, right? There's no big concern about liberty. It's an appliance. Just from the start pick a carrier you can afford. Problem solved in my view. -- Problem remains for you only because out of proportion in your mind.

    2nd, you excel at totally irrelevant analogy, even for an AC.

     

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  23.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 25th, 2013 @ 8:37pm

    Re:

    You know, if you're going to claim that they got something wrong, it falls upon you to say what they got wrong, as well as providing evidence that they are wrong.

    Just saying 'they screwed up' and leaving it at that is anything but persuasive.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 8:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    First, I was responding to the point you made about apps, not the article topic

    Second the ability to control the computing devices you pay for is an important enabler of innovation. Being able to just develop and app and just sideload for testing reduses the barrior to create as opposed to having to follow certain rules or pay for a devkit.

    Further, just as being able to put your choice of toppings on your burger alloows you to better enjoy it the same is true of loading any app you want.

    So yes, freedom for phones does have an important impact

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 9:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    Also, if you'd explain how you think my analogy is irrelevant then I'll gladly come up with one that you can understand

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 9:25pm

    Re: Re:

    Ordinarily I would agree. But not here. The USA Today article is plainly off the mark and manifests a significant lack of understanding of the relevant law. When one presents an article that is off the mark and runs against the group-think at TD, TD principals lambaste them unmercifully, going to great lengths to parse and cherry-pick everything they say in order to proclaim righteous indignation and hold them up as examples of persons who represent the very worst of a "permission society". My comment is that consistency demands the same be done when persons who pronounce opinions in line with what TD embraces are likewise misinformed. Surely criticism cuts both ways. Otherwise, readers are left with only one side of a multifaceted issue.

     

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  27.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Mar 25th, 2013 @ 11:51pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Right, so you either can't find what they got wrong, or you're choosing not to say. Really, that's all you had to say.

    As for the rest of your comment, you may not have noticed, but when someone on TD, whether writer of an article or commenter on an article disagrees with something/someone, in the vast majority of cases they give their reasons and arguments as to why.

    Barring those very few commentators that aren't in any way shape or form interested in what others have to say, it's almost never a case of 'This/they is/are wrong, end of story', but rather 'This/they is/are wrong, and here is why I think so'.

     

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  28.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 12:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    Note the all important word *THEIR* phones. -- YES, it's YOUR phone. But no telco allows you to freely use your phone on THEIR network. --

    Actually your confusing what happens in America with the rest of the planet.

    As long as I pay for the access I can do whatever the blazes I like on 'their' networks because I have paid for the service they HAVE to supply, and have no legal ability to state what and how I use their service as long as I pay for any overusages etc. IN fact only a court can state that unlawful usage has occurred and not some private entity

    That confusion between yours and theirs is a frequent problem with you kids who think that the world revolves around you

    That confusion between consumer rights and how you allow companies to screw you over is a frequent problem with the USA who think that the world revolves around you

    There FTFY!

     

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  29.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 12:02am

    Re:

    The sarcmark! I think you need one ;)

     

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  30.  
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    Tobias Harms (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 12:57am

    Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    Not all phones in Europe is sold unlocked. This for instance:
    http://www.katshing.se/mobiler/samsung/samsung_galaxy_siii_4g-16474_30101
    But they are usually locked for a limited time and the operators have to supply unlocking.
    My galaxy s3 isn't locked but I do have a contract with an operator where I pay an raised monthly subscription for 24 months. After 18 months I could renew it if I wanted to. For that I pay 300 SEK per month which comes out to around $46. For that I get the phone, $23 worth of call minutes at 11 cents per minute, 1000 sms/month and 1 Mbit/s with no data cap.

     

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  31.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 1:14am

    This is you second sanction

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Howard (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 1:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    Why do you think a law would prevent an individual from rooting the phone and causing mischief, if they can't prevent it by technical means?

    Security should not based on obscurity and laws. If the carriers security can penetrated by a rooted phone, then they should a) thank the individual for finding the security hole, b) fix their security

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 3:06am

    but we all know who Congress will take notice of, whether encouraged to do so or not, dont we? CTIA will make sure, using any bull shit it can invent to aid in it's continued bull shit policies, that they are the ones. USA Today dont have a chance!

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 3:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    There's probably a reason there was a lack of evidence, lets have a think about the situation shall we?

    1) People complain that the DMCA doesn't allow them to unlock their property
    2) Temporary fix is applied
    3) No-one complains because the issue is resolved.
    4) Temporary fix expires
    5) People complain because the issue has occurred again.

    To me it seems that the problem is stage 4. How is anyone supposed to produce evidence of something going wrong when it's been fixed (as far as the public is concerned)?

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 3:50am

    Re:

    Because rightsholders never have a lack of understanding of the DMCA, right?

     

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  36.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 4:52am

    Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    What if someone finds how to circumvent their security?

    It will happen regardless of you trying to punish the average Joe. Ban computers since hacking can occur! ZOMG! CYBERAPOCALYPSE!

    I think your mind is in some loopy mode lately. It's amusing. You should start using the nickname "Techdirt_clown"

     

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  37.  
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    Ninja (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 4:53am

    Aha, good to see it going mainstream. This copyright reform might become rather interesting ;)

     

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  38.  
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    Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 5:47am

    Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    Did you actually use the word logically in your post? Shame on you.

    Ok boys and girls, let's take this to basics. This is not a software or hardware or security issue. It has nothing to do with technology at all.

    It's called price fixing. Plain and simple. The telco wants the phone locked so that you are forced to use their service while they give you a huge "discount" on the hardware. This also artificially inflates the cost of the phone in the market as well. Using the DMCA to enforce this scheme is just fortuitous for some crafty lawyers.

    If you haven't figured it out by now, the telcos will come up with whatever excuse they can ( e.g. network congestion for data caps) to insist that there is a need for whatever makes them the most money. There is no logic involved, just profit.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 7:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It is the principals at TD who cited this USA Today article, and yet made nary mention of the paper's contents that were patently wrong, to whom my comment was directed. Had this been an article in another newspaper supporting "locking", it would have been dissected in great detail in advance of calling the newspaper clueless and an unabashed supporter (maximalist, if you will) copyright law.

    It is hypocrisy to dissect in one instance and not the other.

     

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  40.  
    identicon
    DS, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 8:09am

    Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    I fear the day that ootb starts posting Depeche Mode videos.

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    JEDIDIAH, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 9:32am

    Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    > First, it's a phone, right? There's no big concern about liberty. It's an appliance.

    None of that is relevant.

    It's my personal property.

    The government should be just as eager to defend my property rights as it is to do so for Sony or HBO.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    JEDIDIAH, Mar 26th, 2013 @ 9:36am

    All the lines are blurred.

    The USA Today article is no lie.

    Copyright is being used to make contract violations illegal while remaining technologically possible. The Register of Copyrights is regulating technology. This is a side effect of the computer age where most technology is at some level just software.

    If it's a phone, then that's meddling in telecommunications.

    It's like a librarian is enforcing the old Ma Bell monopoly. AT&T used exactly the same excuses for crippling your experience then too.

     

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  43.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 26th, 2013 @ 9:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    On the exact point: that's not the bargain made with my ISP, totally different situation.

    If this were just a bargain you struck with your carrier that would be OK (if there were strong competition in the US anyway). But this is a LAW that makes it ILLEGAL to unlock your phone. And even if all your arguments about security were worthwhile, what does that have to do with copyright law? Because that's where this restriction is coming from.

     

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  44.  
    identicon
    Not Applicable, Mar 27th, 2013 @ 2:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Telcos CAN'T logically let just ANY software run.

    You dear sir are talking bollocks

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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