BlackBerryOS.com - White House Responds To 'Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal' Petition
  • White House Responds To 'Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal' Petition



    In the case of the ongoing story about lawmakers making unlocking cell phones illegal as of Jan 26th, we have an update from the White House on the issue. The White House's statement is a response to a petition that collected a total of 114,000 signatures, breaking the 100,000 signature barrier needed to garner a response. What may come as a surprise, the White House agrees with those in favor of making unlocking cell phones legal. White House spokesman David Edelman stated:

    "The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties."

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

    "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."
    So it's anyone's guess what ultimately will become of this and whether the White House's response will make any kind of difference toward the new law. It will take the help of Congress to make this happen, in which a statement has already come out in response to the White House:

    In a statement today, the Obama administration announced its view that, as a matter of telecommunications policy, consumers should be able to unlock their legally purchased cell phones for purposes of switching from one wireless carrier to another.

    Both the Librarian of Congress and the Register of Copyrights value our colleagues in the administration and the thoughtful discussions we have had with them on this issue. We also agree with the administration that the question of locked cell phones has implications for telecommunications policy and that it would benefit from review and resolution in that context.

    The question of locked cell phones was raised by participants in the Section 1201 rulemaking conducted between September 2011 and October 2012 by the Register of Copyrights, who in turn advises the Librarian of Congress. The rulemaking is a process spelled out by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in which members of the public can request exemptions from the law to enable circumvention of technological protection measures. In the case of cell phones, the request was to allow circumvention of technological protection measures controlling access to copyrighted software on cell phones.

    The rulemaking is a technical, legal proceeding and involves a lengthy public process. It requires the Librarian of Congress and the Register of Copyrights to consider exemptions to the prohibitions on circumvention, based on a factual record developed by the proponents and other interested parties. The officials must consider whether the evidence establishes a need for the exemption based on several statutory factors. It does not permit the U.S. Copyright Office to create permanent exemptions to the law.

    As designed by Congress, the rulemaking serves a very important function, but it was not intended to be a substitute for deliberations of broader public policy.

    However, as the U.S. Copyright Office has recognized many times, the 1201 rulemaking can often serve as a barometer for broader policy concerns and broader policy action. The most recent rulemaking has served this purpose.



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