Cellphone unlocking bill moves to House floor

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The House Judiciary Committee advanced in a voice vote July 31 the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act" (H.R. 1123 [.pdf]) along with a manager's amendment (.pdf) proposed by the bill's sponsor Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

If enacted into law, the bill would allow consumers to unlock their mobile devices. The amendment clarifies that unlocking can be performed by the purchaser, or "by another person at the direction of the purchaser, for the sole use or benefit of the purchaser."

Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai recently urged Congress to "push that proposal across the finish line."

The bill ensures that mobile device unlocking is not a criminal infraction. Cellphone unlocking has in recent years been permitted thanks to a series of waivers.

In 2006 and in 2009, the Librarian of Congress granted 3 years exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, PL 105-304 (.pdf), which made it illegal to unlock phones because users had to circumvent a technological measure to protect against piracy.

In October 2012, the proposal for another 3 years exemption was denied. There is no longer protection for an individual unlocking his or her phone, making it a copyright and criminal infraction.

For more:
- download H.R. 1123 (.pdf)
- download the approved amendment (.pdf)

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