Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick




DMCA Used For Anti-Competitive Purposes... Again

from the a-waste-of-time-and-money dept

The DMCA was never supposed to be used for anti-competitive reasons. That was said repeatedly when it was first put into place and people raised objections. Yet, over and over again we hear cases where it's obviously being used to stop competitors. The latest, as pointed out by the EFF, is that prepaid wireless provider Tracfone is suing a company that unlocks Tracfone handsets. Tracfone subsidizes the handsets to make it easier for people to buy them, but locks them down to keep people from taking them elsewhere. We actually wrote about this case last September, based on a Wired article that left the participants unnamed (since it was before the suit had been filed, and the writer only knew about it because she was contacted by the unlocking firm for advice on what to do about the cease & desist). Apparently, no one was able to convince Tracfone that using the DMCA as their weapon of choice was a bad idea, so now a lawsuit has been filed. These types of cases have had mixed results so far in the courts, with some rulings being better than others. The courts haven't really set a clear precedent yet, which is unfortunate. Of course, what's silly is that Tracfone could just do this contractually, forbidding anyone who buys a subsidized handset from using it on another network, rather than using the DMCA to go after the firm that does the unlocking. However, most people like to believe that they actually own the products they bought -- which means they should be allowed to modify them, if they choose to do so. Well, at least Tracfone isn't trying to throw the unlockers in jail, like some mobile operators.

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  • identicon
    jo blow, 16 Feb 2006 @ 7:20pm

    Its Mine!

    WHen I buy a phone, I can do whatever I want with it, hack it, crack it, hardware hack it. I don't care about the warranty. If you buy it, its yours.

    If Tracaphone doesnt want it hacked, why dont they just call it a rental .. duh .. .. Rent-a-phone.

    dumbasses..

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

    • identicon
      ryan bahr, 16 Feb 2006 @ 8:05pm

      Re: Its Mine!

      hells yeah. if i pay for it, and if im allowed to break it, write on it with sharpies, or even burn the damn thing in a fire, why can't i use it on another network?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2006 @ 10:16pm

        Re: Its Mine!

        >< br>
        Because people don't understand anything electronic. Look at it this way: People understand shoes. Nike has never sued people for drawing all over their shoes, putting in Dr. Scholes(sp) inserts, using oder eaters, or embroidering the word Converse in their shoes. Why? Because once you whip out your wallet, they become YOUR DAMNED SHOES.

        Electronics (computers, phones, mp3 players, XBoxes, ect) have a bit of mystery surrounding them for most people. The technology is still (after all these years) new enough that the people who own it can bully people into believing that buying the product is mutually exclusive from owning the product, and owning the patent means that they own the product.

        I'm waiting for GM, Ford, Mitsubishi, and other car companies to tell owners of cars that it is illegal to modify the motor, put in a lift kit, or drop the car and make it a low rider. It may screw up the warrenty, but the people doing it usually know that and accept that.

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

        • identicon
          Jeff, 17 Feb 2006 @ 6:24am

          Re: Its Mine!


          I'm waiting for GM, Ford, Mitsubishi, and other car companies to tell owners of cars that it is illegal to modify the motor, put in a lift kit, or drop the car and make it a low rider. It may screw up the warrenty, but the people doing it usually know that and accept that.

          I believe Ford tried that in the 60's and a court ruled against them.

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

  • identicon
    mark, 16 Feb 2006 @ 8:45pm

    No Subject Given

    yep. Just like I own the software I paid hundreds of dollars for. Thanks, Billy Boy, for creating leased software, you weasel.

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

  • identicon
    ShaolinTiger, 16 Feb 2006 @ 10:47pm

    More abuse

    Yah man, this is bullshit.

    If I bought it, it's mine, the company isn't breaking any law.

    Yeah it might invalidate the warranty, but that's far from illegal, that's the given right of the purpose who bought the device to decide.

    They can throw it down their toilet and flush it if they want.

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

  • identicon
    giafly, 17 Feb 2006 @ 1:29am

    Re: do this contractually

    Re: Of course, what's silly is that Tracfone could just do this contractually, forbidding anyone who buys a subsidized handset from using it on another network, rather than using the DMCA to go after the firm that does the unlocking.

    A contract would only let them sue their customers who signed the contract, not the firm that does the unlocking. This is likely to worry future customers and so reduce sales (see previous Techdirt stories). So they preferred to use the DMCA.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2006 @ 11:39pm

      Re: Re: do this contractually

      "A contract would only let them sue their customers who signed the contract, not the firm that does the unlocking."

      The unlocking firm would be liable to TracFone for tortious interference with contract.

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

  • identicon
    Ted Smith, 17 Feb 2006 @ 9:29am

    Wireless World: $30 billion in TV phones


    CHICAGO, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- The content isn't quite up to the level of Kiefer Sutherland's anti-terrorist, noir drama "24" just yet, but mobile TV enabled telephones are nonetheless poised for massive market growth, and experts tell United Press International's Wireless World that the sales could reach $30 billion in the coming years.

    A report released this week by Boston-based Strategy Analytics, called "TV Phones: Integration and Power Improvements Needed to Reach 100 Million Sales," predicts that TV phone sales revenue will soar from $5 billion in this year to more than $30 billion by 2010.By Gene Koprowski

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


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