Four members of the US House introduced a bill today that would allow anyone to tinker with any device they own.
If it can get through congress, the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 would ensure that any software and firmware that comes with a device can be modified legally by its owner, so long as they have the device physically (or via an agent) under their control, and have a legitimate contract to use a wireless provider’s network – and that it isn’t used for piracy.
“This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives,” said Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who represents Silicon Valley and San Jose. “Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased. If consumers are not violating copyright or some other law, there’s little reason to hold back the benefits of unlocking so people can continue using their devices.”
Lofgren is joined by her Silicon Valley neighbor Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), who represents Palo Alto and South San Jose, and fellow Democrat Jared Polis (D-CO), who has centers for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) in his Boulder constituency, The Register reports.
The Dems are joined by one Republican, Thomas Massie (R-KY), an MIT alum who’s previously come out against CISPA and in support of industrial hemp (MAVERICK).
“Everyone should be free to use their personal property as they see fit and choose their preferred technologies without penalty,” Massie said in a statement. “This bill rolls back excessive and out-dated prohibitions on otherwise lawful innovations that promote marketplace competition. I look forward to advancing this bipartisan effort with Reps. Lofgren, Polis, and Eshoo.”
This legislation addresses an October decision which amended the terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to block the unlocking and jailbreaking of devices and tablets, which had been legal since 2010.
The change in regulation, which came into effect in January, sparked an online petition to the White House. It quickly became one of the first to break the new 100,000 signature threshold (started to prevent frivolous petitions). The Obama administration responded promptly, coming out for the right to unlock, but placing the onus on congress.
I have to be honest and say that this bill probably has little chance of passing through congress. But the fact that there is some bipartisan support will certainly help give it some legs. The majority of the large Telcos have made it abundantly clear that they want absolute control over any hardware they release to their consumers and, frankly, money talks. Still this is a step in the right direction and the sheer introduction of this type of legislature marks a growing awareness of these issues in the corridors of government.
If this is something you support, let your congressperson know here!
Total non sequitur, but I kept thinking of this while writing this. So, happy Friday, here you go!