US lawmakers scramble to legalise phone unlocking

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US lawmakers scramble to legalise phone unlocking

DMCA review under way.

Several proposed new laws to make cellphone unlocking legal again have been presented to the United States House of Representatives and Senate.

The bills seek modifications to the country's controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act that bans customers from moving devices between providers.

Phone unlocking was officially outlawed by the United States Librarian of Congress with the ban coming into effect in January this year on pain of lengthy prison sentences and large fines.

A petition was launched by Sina Khanifar against the measure in February. It gathered over 114,000 signatures and won the backing of the US government, which intends to review the unlocking ban.

Now, US lawmakers are moving to change the situation.

Senator Wyden's bill seeks to modify Section 1201 of the DMCA, Khanifar told iTNews. This makes it better than the one introduced in the Senate by Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal, whose bill Khanifar alleged "doesn't do anything at all" as it doesn't address the DMCA.

However, Wyden's bill misses out on other points Khanifar said, such as not making services and software used for unlocking legal.

A third bipartisan bill by four members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that have jurisdiction over copyright law is "the most significant to come out yet" Khanifar said.

Republican Bob Goodlatte, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said he intend to work with other members of committees in both chambers to "ensure that cell phone users have the ability and freedom to use their cell phone with the carrier of their choosing".

Large US telco AT&T launched a policy on the matter over the weekend, saying it intends to unlock customers' phones if they have met the terms of their service agreements and the company has the required unlock code for the device.

Khanifar said the policy is laudable but notes some pitfalls such as unlock codes taking a long time to deliver or not being available at all, as well as vagaries around service agreement terms and their length.

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