Unlocking Technology Act 2013: Is Congress Ready to Let Us Unlock Our Own Phones?


After years of failing to create a permanent solution to the legality of unlocking electronic devices, Congress has finally come up with a bill that would give consumers the right to do so without having to worry about violating copyright laws. The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 was introduced in response to a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 ,which forbids jailbreaking or unlocking electronic devices without consent from the original carrier.

"This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives," Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said after introducing the bill to Congress. "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, along with the three other representatives responsible for creating the bill, Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), have garnered the support of nearly 115,000 Americans who signed a White House petition to fix the DMCA which has had its own history of conflict aside from its issue with unlocking phones. In addition, the Obama administration has also expressed its own support of the bill, but stated that reform would most likely come from an act of Congress.

So why all the fuss about unlocking cell phones and other electronic devices?

Technically, unlocking your phone is allowed as long as you get the consent of the carrier you purchased your device from. The reason that these carriers would not want consumers unlocking their devices without prior consent is to prevent their products from being used by different companies. Unfortunately, such a policy means that everyday consumers could face up to five years in jail and a $500,000 fine for illegally unlocking their phones.

In this day and age, consumers should be given the right to do whatever they want with the products they purchase with their own money. Although the companies selling these products face the risk of losing a certain percentage of their income, they shouldn't have a say in what consumers wish to do. Of course, in order to compensate, companies could simply state that consumers who choose to unlock their devices would simply not be covered under their current warranties.

As founder of the website FixtheDMCA.org, Sina Khanifar, tweeted to Lofgren after her announcement, “Your unlocking bill is awesome. Thank you!”