The White House and the Federal Communications Commission have
joined opponents criticizing the Library of Congress' new provisions
against unlocking cellphones.
Under current law, consumers cannot take phones they have
purchased from one network and use them when they sign with another,
even after their previous contracts have expired. They also have to
pay roaming fees when abroad, as they cannot insert a local SIM card
to a locked phone.
The White House issued a statement Monday in support of laws that
change the Library of Congress' restrictions on unlocking cellphones
under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
R. David Edelman, senior advisor for Internet, Innovation &
Privacy, released a statement on behalf of the White House
supporting a petition proposing that consumers should be able to
unlock their cellphones, tablets, and other devices without criminal
or other penalties.
Its 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, the statement reads.
The Library of Congress established federal copyright penalties
for unlocking a cellphone, which kicked in on Jan. 26. Criminal
penalties include a $500,000 fine and/or five years in prison for
the first offense. Wireless carriers can collect statutory civil
damages ranging from $200 and $2,500 per violation.
More than 114,000 people signed a petition asking the Library of
Congress to rescind the new DMCA provisions, which kicked in on Jan.
26. Cellphones were previously exempted from DMCA regulations.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also expressed concerns about the
DMCA rules about unlocking cellphones.
"From a communications policy perspective, this raises serious
competition and innovation concerns, and for wireless consumers, it
doesn't pass the common sense test, Mr. Genachowski says in a
statement. The FCC is examining this issue, looking into whether the
agency, wireless providers, or others should take action to preserve
consumers' ability to unlock their mobile phones.
The White Houses statement notes the Library of Congress agrees
that the issue has implications for telecommunications policy and
would benefit from review.
The Obama administration would support narrow legislative fixes
to ensure that neither criminal law nor technological locks prevent
consumers from switching carriers after they complete a service
The Electronic Frontier Foundation praised the White Houses
stance: Your rights to reuse, resell, or give away devices are
especially importantand the Obama administration gets this. As the
administrations telecommunications agency pointed out last year,
digital locks backed up by legal threats arent just used to police
copyrightstheyre used to block competition. …