House-Approved Cell Phone Unlocking Bill Doesn’t Permit Bulk Unlocking

Consumers earned a small
victory yesterday when the House of Representatives approved a bill
that loosens restrictions on cellphone unlocking (modifying phones
to work with any carrier after a contract expires). Unfortunately,
the act stops short of allowing businesses to unlock phones.

The House voted 295-114 in favor of Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s (R-VA)
Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, which lost
supporters when Goodlatte slipped in a last minute change that “does not
permit the unlocking of cell phones for the purpose of bulk

Derek Khanna, a longtime
of legalizing unlocking
to PC World why this addition is

The new wording favors mobile carriers… Phone companies
lobbied to make phone unlocking illegal, and now that the public
has responded with outrage and demanded action the phone companies
lobbyists have rewritten the legislation to go after their
competitors… Many consumers have to rely upon others to unlock
their devices for them; under this text small businesses could not
provide that service.

Electronics resellers should be able to buy phones from
consumers, and after ensuring they’re not stolen, unlock them for
resale… This is a critical part of how the wireless market

Public Knowledge, an intellectual property advocacy group,
retracted its endorsement,
a similar sentiment that the bill “pick[s] winners
and losers between business models.”

Mike Masnick of TechDirt says it’s
“massively problematic” to “suggest that the
unlocker’s motives in unlocking has an impact on …
whether or not it’s legal. And that’s an entirely subjective
distinction when a bill seems to assume motives.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
that “unlocking allows re-use, and that means less
electronic waste,” and criticizes the legislation for ignoring the
“collateral damage” caused by preventing the practice.

This bill “was never the first choice of unlocking advocates,”

to The Verge‘s Adi Robertson, because
“instead of permanently legalizing unlocking, it just extended the
exemption, which would need to be reexamined anyways in less than
two years. But it’s been relatively uncontroversial, and so far,
it’s the only piece of legislation to have passed

Although the practice has been uncontroversial elsewhere in the
world, unlocking has been virtually illegal in
the U.S. for years, thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright

from Hit & Run

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *