Amendment would improve the “Bandaid Bill” by allowing you to get help unlocking your phone, but changes won’t last.
That bill, which was introduced by Rep. Goodlatte, the
Chairman of the committee, provides a temporary fix to the cell phone unlocking
problem. (That original bill is available here)
Should it pass, users would once again be able to alter the firmware on their
phones so that they can use the phones they’ve bought with a new network. This
change to the law would last until the Library of Congress’s next rulemaking on circumvention,
likely a couple of years from now.
The new changes to that bill would expand its scope
slightly, allowing users to have someone else unlock their phone for them. This
is particularly useful for people who aren’t able to unlock their phones by
themselves. Without the change, someone who offered to unlock your phone for
you would be at risk of breaking the law.
This amendment would be a small but welcome improvement to
the existing Goodlatte bill. However, the fix still remains temporary. Once the
next rulemaking rolls around, its fixes all disappear, leaving consumers back
in the hands of the process that put unlocking in jeopardy in the first place.
And even if the rulemaking does the right thing then, it
still might not be able to renew the exemption for unlocking services that this
new amendment creates, meaning that the process doesn’t just start all over
again for consumers and the Copyright Office; it starts all over again for
Congress, too, and we’ll be right back where we are today.
So while it’s a nice step in the right direction for phone
unlocking, even this amendment can’t be the end of this process and this
discussion. Proposals like Lofgren’s
1201 reform bill need to be taken up and discussed in Congress before
too long. Otherwise consumers, carriers, the Copyright Office, and Congress
will all be right back on the merry-go-round in a few short years’ time.
Original image by Flickr user Travis Isaacs.