Cell Phone Unlocking Bill Passes, Bad Last-Minute Changes And All

from the anticlimactic-and-anticonsumer dept

In an evening session just a few minutes ago, the House of Representatives voted 295-114 in favor of H.R.1123, the “Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act”. As we discussed this morning, though it started out as a reasonably good bill intended to address the use of the DMCA to squash activities that have nothing to do with copyright, last-minute changes introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte poisoned its intent by introducing a possible future exception for bulk phone unlocking.

Unfortunately, the changes were so last-minute that the reaction and withdrawal of support by Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo was not enough to turn the tides. Though the problematic text is carefully worded for plausible deniability — allowing the House to claim it hasn’t technically taken a side — I doubt it would take long before phone companies and their lobbyists started using this oh-so-obvious bit of leverage gifted to them in the bill. For now, it falls to the Senate to pass their version of the bill, so there’s still a chance we’ll see these problems addressed.

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Comments on “Cell Phone Unlocking Bill Passes, Bad Last-Minute Changes And All”

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Infosec Pro says:

Re: Re:

Chasing the link provided in the article and reading the text of both the originally introduced bill and the version passed, it appears that the added language is as shown below.

It’s pretty obtuse, as usual for legalese. The superficial reading appears to say that circumvention is only allowed by the purchaser for purposes of authorized access to another network. So it seems that it would allow buying a handset locked to one provider and unlocking it for authorized access to another network, but not unlocking for unauthorized access to another network. Could also be construed to not cover unlocking for other purposes, such as disconnected use (RE? but that’s illegal on other counts).

However as written it could be argued that it says “the owner of…program” and most software is licensed so a handset purchaser would not be allowed to unlock it under this verbiage. Lawyers get rich on quibbling over such nits. And lobbyists get rich for getting them written into law on behalf of their corporate clients.

Yer pays yer money and yer takes yer choice. YMMV.

“(c) Unlocking at direction of purchaser or family member.?With respect to paragraph (3) of section 201.40(b) of title 37, Code of Federal Regulations, as made effective by subsection (a) of this subsection, and with respect to any other category of wireless devices, in addition to wireless telephone handsets, with respect to which, as determined by the Librarian of Congress in a rulemaking conducted under subsection (b) or otherwise under section 1201(a)(1)(C) of title 17, United States Code, circumvention of a computer program by the owner of a copy of the program is permitted solely in order to connect to a wireless communications network when such connection is authorized by the operator of such network, in the case of a purchaser of such handset or device for personal use, such circumvention may be initiated by the purchaser, by a family member of such purchaser, or by another person at the direction of such purchaser or family member, for the sole use or benefit of such purchaser or family member.”

Anonymous Coward says:

This is why Congress is widely unpopular and why “young people can’t trust the government.” Even when they try to fix something, they find a way to fuck that up too. The sooner this 400-headed monkey gets some new brains, the better. Better yet, replace the 400-headed monkey with over 400 people who can think for themselves and actually have the balls to turn down the bribes and put these corporate criminals behind bars instead.

Pat says:

Found it on another site. Apparently they added a part which noted that it does not permit Bulk Unlocking. Could not find it in the Link to the bill you provided but rather had to search another site. Sorry if this sounds rude(its not meant to), but please add the change or additional information when writing articles that mention that they made an adjustment to a bill. I really enjoy the site and would like to it to maintain a high level of journalism even if its a blog 🙂

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Re: Re: C-Span

Naw, he’s where he belongs. It’s not like the capitol is a pristine place he’s fouling for the first time or anything. He doesn’t need to be elsewhere; quite the contrary. See, if Congress doesn’t refresh the manure daily, the place will collapse in on itself like an old termite mound. Goodlatte’s just doing his share of spackling the walls, is all.

Anonymous Coward says:

What happened to the free market mantra continuously thrown about? Why not offer both locked and unlocked, see what the consumer spends money on – let the market decide without attempting to dissuade via price fixing.

What’s that? Never gonna happen? Yeah, it figures.

The so called free market is a great little saying to pull out in support a particular agenda, but it is seldom used otherwise and does not actually exist. It is a figment of someones imagination.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re:

True. A “perfect market” requires perfect information. But there is tremendous information dis-symmetry, and of course the telecom industry has a great informational advantage over the consumer.

We can’t expect consumers to choose correctly, and signal the marketplace correctly, when they barely understand what SIM locking is. Scratch that, they simply don’t understand it.

Thus, the market receives the signal that SIM locking is just fine, and supplies it in volume.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fucking amendmants to a fucking bill shortly before voting should be fucking banished, at the very fucking least more time should be mandatorily added

i cant help but wonder how many folks in congress actually new that the bill had been ammended, because if its a case that folks in congress who voted, DID’NT know, then i hope one day arrests are made to circumvent and make the “representatives” start taking their damn jobs seriously, after
all, some of them dont seem to mind assuming all the benifits to their position

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