Press Release Anticircumvention

Cell Phone Unlocking Bill Passes Out of Senate Judiciary Committee

July 10, 2014 , ,

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), approved S 517, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. The bill allows consumers to “unlock” their cell phones so they can take a phone with them from one service provider to another.  

The following can be attributed to Laura Moy, Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge:  

“This bill responds to the hundreds of thousands of Americans who called for the right to unlock devices they legally own. There has been overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress and from the President for a bill that delivers on this call. Public Knowledge thanks Senators Leahy and Grassley for their leadership in sponsoring this important legislation. We support the bill and encourage the Senate to pass it quickly. 

“When consumers purchase a device, they expect to be able to use it as they see fit, not to be bound by software that renders the device useless when they switch from one carrier to another. But until we have unlocking on the books, a flawed copyright law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) stands in the way.  

“Like the House version that passed in February, this bill not only protects consumers' right to unlock their own devices, but also allows for third party help. This is critical for those who need technical assistance to unlock their device. We are also pleased that a recent amendment to the bill removed language about bulk unlocking, which—like individual unlocking—has nothing to do with copyright law.  

“Enabling consumers to unlock mobile devices will improve competition in the wireless market by making it easier to switch from one carrier to another. It is an important first step toward a fuller discussion of DMCA reform. Public Knowledge continues to encourage Congress to allow consumers to break any digital lock so long as they are not doing so to infringe copyright.”