Latest Congressional Attempt To 'Fix' Mobile Phone Unlocking Just Punts The Issue Until Later

from the not-a-good-idea dept

Ah, Congress. Even when they're doing something, they're good at not really accomplishing much. We've already written about some various proposals on Capitol Hill to respond to the White House's request for Congress to make phone unlocking legal, contrary to the Librarian of Congress' decision to remove it from DMCA exemptions. So far, as we noted, all of the bills really failed to tackle the real issue, and some were just poorly thought out entirely. At the end of that piece, we noted rumors that Rep. Goodlatte was introducing a bill. Late Monday, Senator Leahy (with Senators Grassley, Franken and Hatch) introduced his bill and it's believed to be the same one that Goodlatte is likely to push in the House. Since Leahy and Goodlatte lead the Judiciary Committees in the Senate and the House, it has to be assumed that this bill has the pole position in being the one likely to get traction.

If so, it's a disaster. It does nothing to fix the problem. Worse, it just kicks the can down the road in the hopes that people will forget about it. Here's what it does:
  1. It tells the Librarian of Congress to "repeal" the existing failure to exempt phone unlocking and replace it with the exemption that was put in place back in the last rulemaking in 2010 (which was a weaker unlocking rule than the one before it). That "new" / "old" ruling will stick around until the next rulemaking in 2015 when the Librarian might decide to dump it again.
  2. Within one year, the Librarian of Congress, with the help of the Register of Copyrights, is supposed to determine whether or not to extend the exemption further to things like tablets (as requested by the White House).
  3. It explicitly states that nothing in the bill changes anything of importance.
In other words, "oh, gosh, someone noticed how totally screwed up the system is, and how the walls are crumbling, and let's just patch up this one little hole here with a bit of spackle." This is not a solution. This is a total punt by Congress. The other bills proposed so far have been bad, but this is worse.

Congress has a real chance to fix something here, but so far has chosen not to actually take a position of leadership and do anything. How typical.
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Filed Under: bob goodlatte, congress, copyright, dmca, librarian of congress, patrick leahy, unlocking


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  1. icon
    silverscarcat (profile), 12 Mar 2013 @ 6:02am

    Mike, you forget one thing...

    If Congress did something, their approval rating might go above 3%.

    Can't have that, now can we?

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