DMCA Reform Bill Allows Phone Unlocking and DVD Ripping

Last year, the Library of Congress drew furious anger from the Internet when it issued rules banning the practice of unlocking your cell phone. After serious backlash including 100,000+ signatures and a White House statement criticizing the rule, Congress has stepped up to create a new bill to permit unlocking cell phones.

Previously, the Library had granted permission to users to unlock their cell phones for the purpose of switching wireless carriers. But, after a court decision held that phone software is licensed, not sold, the Library banned the practice and enslaved cell phones everywhere.

The new bill, which you can read here in all its legalese glory, known as the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013, would amend the anti-circumvention provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Currently, the DMCA provision makes it a crime to “circumvent” copy protection, even in the case of lawful uses. So, unlocking your cell phones to switch carriers are illegal. Modifying your videogame console to play legally created backups or homebrew games is illegal. And so on.

The new bill states that:

It is not a violation [to use any technology] that is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of facilitating noninfringing uses  . . . by circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to that work.

In short, the bill says, as long as you’re not jailbreaking your phone or ripping DVDs and games to violate copyright law, you can have at it. One of the bill’s sponsors, Zoe Lofgren, said in a press release, “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.”

(Featured image courtesy of itjournalist)