People in favor of unlocking their cell phones – or in doing so for other people – received good news yesterday when the Library of Congress said cell phone users who unlock their phones for use on a different but compatible network or access to third-party applications are not in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The ruling stems from a request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that asked the Librarian of Congress to renew a 2006 rule exempting cell phone unlocking so handsets can be used with other telecom carriers. EFF says cell phone unlockers have been successfully sued under the DMCA even though there was no copyright infringement involved in the unlocking.
In its reasoning in favor of EFF’s jailbreaking exemption, the Copyright Office rejected Apple’s claim that copyright law prevents people from installing unapproved programs on iPhones.
In a statement, Free Press Policy Counsel Aparna Sridhar said the decision by the U.S. Copyright Office is an important step toward promoting open wireless networks. “This approach will assist consumers who want to vote with their feet by taking the phone of their choice to the carrier of their choice,” Sridhar said. “Not only is this a win for consumers, but it’s also a win for innovators and developers whose products and applications now have a fighting chance in a market plagued by exclusive device arrangements dictated by the largest wireless carriers.”
Wireless phone provisioning firm HoudiniSoft welcomed the news. HoudiniSoft sells its service to the likes of MetroPCS, Leap Wireless International and other service providers, and questions about the practice of re-provisioning or flashing of handsets finally have been answered.
HoudiniSoft General Manager and Vice President of Business Development Rex Lee expects more carriers will adopt the practice now that the exemption from the 2006 DMCA ruling has been extended. He notes that the ruling expands the law for three years. “The biggest winner here is the consumer,” he says.
Digital locks on cell phones make it harder to resell, reuse or recycle the handset, prompting EFF to ask for renewal of the rule on behalf of its clients – The Wireless Alliance, ReCellular and Flipswap.
EFF also won a new protection for video remix artists featured on Internet sites like YouTube. The new rule holds that amateur creators do not violate the DMCA when they use short excerpts from DVDs in order to create new, noncommercial works for purposes of criticism or comment if they believe that circumvention is necessary to fulfill that purpose.
Filed Under: Industry regulations