US Govt comes out against cellphone unlocking ban

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US Govt comes out against cellphone unlocking ban

Copyright reform on the cards.

The Obama Administration will support making cellphone unlocking legal in the United States and may introduce changes to the country's controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The policy position announcement came after the administration received a petition that gathered over 114,000 signatories.

"The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cellphones without risking criminal or other penalties," White House senior adviser for Internet, Innovation and Privacy, David Edelman, wrote

"In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones".

Edelman goes beyond cellphones, saying all mobile devices should be able to be unlocked.

"If you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network," he said.

"It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs".

Petitioner Sina Khanifar told iTnews that the policy position is "a big victory for consumers".

He received a call from Edelman with the news and said he's excited that the White House recognised that keeping unlocking legal is common sense.

"While I think this is wonderful, I think the real culprit here is Section 1201 of the DMCA, the controversial "anti-circumvention provision," Khanifar said.

"I discussed with the White House the potential of pushing to have that provision amended or removed, and they want to continue that conversation," he added.

Edelman said the "Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation."

From January this year, a decree by the United States Librarian of Congress, which decides these matters, came into effect and outlawed cellphone unlocking or moving the device to another telco.

Unlockers were threatened with US$500,000 fines and five years in prison for first time offenders, and US$1,000,000 and ten years in jail for repeated transgressions.

The Librarian's decree has been criticised by the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (pdf) and the Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski as preventing consumer choice. (pdf)

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