House Passes Cell Phone Unlocking Bill Under Unanimous Consent

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This afternoon, the House passed S. 517, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, under unanimous consent. The bill allows consumers to "unlock" their cell phones so they can take a phone with them from one service provider to another. The bill already passed in the Senate, and will now make its way to the President's desk for signing.

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

"This important legislation responds to hundreds of thousands of Americans who signed petitions, called, and wrote to government leaders asking for the right to unlock devices they legally own.

"We are particularly grateful to Mr. Goodlatte, Mr. Conyers, and Ms. Lofgren for their work on this important issue and their willingness to find a compromise that works for their constituencies, as well as for the wireless industry and public interest groups like ours.

"This bill ensures that consumers will be able to do what they rightfully expect to be able to do with phones they have purchased: use them on whatever network they like. It protects consumers who unlock their devices from possible criminal and civil liability under an overreaching copyright law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was designed to protect copyright but has had enormous unintended consequences. 

"Not only will this legislation deliver on consumers' expectations that they can use devices they own the way they see fit, but it will have other positive effects as well. It will make it easier for consumers to switch from one provider to another, improving competition in the wireless market; it will improve the availability of free and low-cost secondhand phones for consumers who cannot afford to purchase new devices; and it will keep millions of devices out of landfills.

"This is also an important first step toward reforming the DMCA, which goes far beyond its original intent to protect copyright. Ms. Lofgren has introduced a bill that would go beyond phone unlocking to allow Americans to break any digital lock as long as they're not violating copyright. This could apply to consumer products that all Americans use, ranging from cars to tractors to hearing aids. We hope the House will take up the Lofgren bill soon."  

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