Press Release Anticircumvention

Senate Passes Cell Phone Unlocking Bill Under Unanimous Consent

July 16, 2014

Last night, the Senate 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 following can be attributed to Laura Moy, Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge:

“In response to hundreds of thousands of Americans who called for the right to unlock devices they legally own, the Senate has unanimously passed this important legislation.

“We are particularly grateful to Senators Patrick Leahy and Chuck Grassley. We owe success on this issue to their tireless work on the bill, which was developed in collaboration with public interest groups like ours, as well as the wireless industry and legislators on both sides of the aisle.

“Due to an overreaching copyright law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), unlocking a phone to use it on a different network—something that has nothing to do with copyright—could expose consumers to criminal civil liability. This bill removes that risk, delivering on the expectation every consumer has when they walk into a store and purchase a phone: that they will be able to use the phone however they please.

“Like the House version that passed in February, S 517 also allows mobile device owners to get third party help in unlocking their devices, something many cannot do without technical assistance. We are also pleased that a recent amendment to the bill removed language about bulk unlocking, which further confused the issues of copyright law and business models. 

“By making it easier for consumers to take a phone with them from one provider to another, we believe this legislation will enhance competition in the wireless market, improve the availability of free and low-cost secondhand phones, and 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.”