Skip to comments.The Public Has Spoken – 100,000 Americans Sign WH Petition on Cellphone Unlocking
Posted on 02/23/2013 5:47:33 AM PST by Kaslin
On January 26, 2013, the Librarian of Congress issued a ruling that made it illegal to unlock new phones. Unlocking is a technique to alter the settings on your phone to use your phone on a different carrier. Doing so could place you in legal liability for up to 5 years in jail and a $500,000 fine (specifically the Librarian of Congress allowed the existing exception to lapse). This prohibition is a violation of our property rights, and it makes you wonder, if you cant alter the settings on your phone, do you even own your own phone?
The ruling is a clear example of crony-capitalism, where a few companies asked for the law to be changed to their pecuniary benefit despite the invasion of our property rights, its impact upon consumers, and its impact upon the overall market. This decision creates higher thresholds to entry for new market participants, which hinders competition and leads to less innovation.
Overall this is a clear example of copyright law run amuck the underlying law was created to protect copyright but its being applied in a manner that no legislator expected in 1998 when they voted for the bill. The underlying law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), was passed three years before the iPod, six years before Google Books and nine years before the Kindle. Now that it's clear that the DMCA is being interpreted in a way clearly contrary for which it was passed, its incumbent upon Congress to act.
When the Librarian of Congress (who had previously provided exceptions allowing this activity) made on this issue on October 28, 2012 Congress refused to act. When that ruling went into effect months later on January 26, 2013 Congress refused to act. On January 27, 2013, I published an article in the Atlantic, The Most ridiculous law of 2013 (So Far): It is Now a Crime to Unlock Your Smartphone that brought more attention to this issue and received over a million hits (even briefly knocking the website offline). Despite concern from across the country, online and in the mainstream media Congress refused to act. In my follow-up article I called their failure to address this issue a dereliction of duty.
Since that time I have helped spearhead a White House petition on this matter. That petition on cellphone unlocking, currently at over 110,000 signatures, appears to be the first petition to achieve the 100,000 threshold for a White House response (until recently the petition threshold was 25,000). This accomplishment demonstrates that people are interested and willing to mobilize on this important issue. This show of force of over 100,000 people makes it clear: the people will not stand for laws that impede their personal liberty and stifle innovation that are enacted as a result of crony-capitalism.
Support has come from an unlikely group of allies. Among the many actors, Vint Cerf (co-creator of internet), the National College Republicans, and the Tea Party Nation came out in favor of reversing the ban on unlocking.
People have asked me to specifically address what this means and what can be done. When the White House weighs in on this matter - and considering they answered a petition to build a Death Star I think they would have to address an issue of this serious nature - it will then be incumbent on Congress to act to address this problem. In my Atlantic piece, The Law Against Unlocking Phones is anti-Consumer, anti-Business, and anti-Common Sense, I explained:
We must ask ourselves: "What specific limitations upon our personal freedom and liberty are we prepared to accept in the name of achieving the goal of protecting intellectual property?" Some limitations may be sound, and Congress should debate them on the record. Obviously, we do not have the right to copy books, movies and music and sell them. But other restrictions are invasive and have nothing to do with protecting intellectual property (like unlocking and jail-breaking your phone or adaptive technology for the blind to read). Restrictions upon the use of technology should receive strict legislative scrutiny because of its impact upon innovation and our personal freedom.
This is a problem of Congresss own making now they should fix it. On February 21, 2013, when over 100,000 people petitioned their government for redress on this issue, it is well past time for Congress to act.
To those who want to get involved to support property rights, innovation and the free market ask your Member of Congress:
1) Why do the blind have to ask for an exception to use adaptability technology for e-books? Why is developing, trafficking, or selling that technology still illegal? As a stated in my previous piece, Can you imagine a more ridiculous regulation than one that requires a lobby group for the blind to come to Capitol Hill every three years to explain that the blind still can't read books on their own and therefore need this exception?
2) In a world where we can't unlock our own phones - who really owns our phones?
3) And most egregiously, ask them, for our thousands of service members who deploy abroad and have to unlock their phones to use them in theater, why are they criminals for unlocking their own phones without permission?
In my latest piece for the tech blog Boing Boing, Taking on Real Reform in a Post-SOPA World Lets Start With Cellphone Unlocking, I prepared a letter for Congress:
That we should have to petition our own government to remove these items from a technological blacklist is very unfortunate. If you want to stand up for property rights and against crony capitalism, you can sign the White House petition until Saturday night at midnight here.
Should You Go to Jail for Unlocking Your Phone?
hussein don’t care what the “public wants”. After all, 75% agree with hussein. Still think it’s just 75 people. Not 75%.
Pro 2nd rally today. Virginia Street just north of the Atlantis Casino in Reno. 1-3 p.m. Any Reno freepers going?
Everything democrats/Obama do is to take away our individual rights and freedom and the same time grow government
the democrat party is a criminal socialist organization bent on enslaving all of us , destroying America , destroying capitalism , destroying freedom
so if we unlock our phones then will democrats/Obama come to get us and put us in prison? Yes.
Democrats everything they do is for the goal to advance socialism( grow government ) and at the same time take away our individual rights and freedom
” I paid for it, its mine and they can f**k off! “
You just spun the theme for the Second Revolution!!! This needs to be on T shirts, bumper stickers; and a blimp over NFL games.
Your phrase applies to EVERY aspect of our lives.
I just stole it and put it as my tag line!
Does anyone else wonder how much this cost the manufacturer to buy?
I unlocked my phone
so to Obama : “come and get me you big eared socialist piece of communist crap”
Is it a law? I thought it was a decree by a bunch of bureaucrats, Then us little people turn around and “petition” the king to please change the rules? Just asking him the question gives him power. What are we doing?
The eloquence of the English language as formerly spoken may not be understood by all too many of today’s education system graduates.
The NEWER version is much more in tune with today’s version.
Also readily understood by one and all. In fact, it is “almost” as good a tagline as I think mine is.
Folks, I am not technologically sophisticated, when I was young a transistor radio was a marvel. My parents bought me a transistor radio for my graduation from high school. There were still airplanes with two wings. (Hope that helps you understand why I asked the question: WHAT IS UNLOCKING ONE”S ELECTRONIC DEVICE?
In simple terms, modifying the device's software so that it can be used in different ways. Some vendors design products they sell to be "locked" to certain service providers - so one version of their phone only works with AT&T service. Changing any device you own per se shouldn't be illegal, although clearly what you do with the modified device is subject to regulation.
The current regulations are equivalent to a law forbidding modifications to a car. In other words if you want to go drag racing it would be illegal to put a Chevy motor in a Ford chassis. That's clearly ridiculous, since once you buy the car you can do what you want with it off the roads. There are legitimate regulations about how you can use the modified device of course, so you can't cruise down I-5 in your dragster.
Cell phone companies, and Apple want to control how phones can tablets can be modified since it helps them maintain market share and use marketing techniques based on subsidizing the cost of hardware to lock in customers. Having the government help them lock in customers is at the root of the dispute.
The cell phone providers claim they are trying to protect their service contracts. But unlocking your phone, which is property that you paid for, and switching to another service using that phone, doesn’t negate the service contract. It just prevents making you buy a new phone. I’m glad people are standing up to this control. Next thing you know they’ll want you to buy a new TV if you switch cable companies.
Now question; Should the law and courts support this contract? Explicitly you are asking the legislature and courts to modify the initial promise you made the "Widget" provider.
The contracts with the phone companies are for the service not the puchase of the phone.
It's not that simple. First off, if there is a contract, then there is a remedy, either as set forth in the contract or through a civil action between the parties to enforce the contract. So if, for example, you bought a product with some provision not to modify it, and then you breached the contract it is perfectly reasonable for the other party to seek damages from you. But it isn't reasonable, for example, to criminalize the action you took which led to the breach of the contract as a way for the other party to (a)prevent you from negotiating a different set of contract terms, and (b)free them from the expense and market pressure that results from enforcing their contract themselves.
Using the examples of automobiles, there is nothing in the principles of a free market which would prohibit a car manufacturer from requiring its customers to only have their cars serviced at the manufacturer's dealerships. Of course they would be likely to suffer a loss of sales in the marketplace, since consumers would not want to pay the higher repair prices that would be the likely result of the contract.
To avoid this problem, the car manufacturer comes up with a different plan. It persuades the government to pass a law making it illegal for anyone to have their car repaired by anyone but the dealers of the original manufacturer. No doubt they cite some reason, like better compliance with environmental laws. Under the law the customers no longer have the opportunity to choose where they obtain service for their cars, so the car manufacturer avoids the loss of market share it would otherwise suffer.
The vendors are welcome to set whatever terms they want for their sales, provided that they don't collude in violation of anti-trust laws. But creating laws whose purpose is to enhance their bargaining position with their customers is not good for free markets or society.