Real DMCA Reform: The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013

May 9, 2013 -

Finally members of Congress have put forth serious DMCA reform legislation and rights groups are praising it right out of the gate. The new legislation is called the "Unlocking Technology Act of 2013," and is sponsored by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Jared Polis (D-CO). The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 legalizes unlocking cell phone unlocking and modifies the DMCA so that unlocking copy-protected content is only illegal if it's done in order to "facilitate the infringement of a copyright."

"Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased," said Rep. Lofgren in a press release announcing the bill. "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's bill is being praised by rights groups such as Public Knowledge and activist like Derek Khanna who was fired from his job on Capital Hill for advocating for copyright reform.

"This is the only piece of legislation so far introduced that legalizes both cell phone unlocking, but also the underlying technology for cell phone unlocking," said Derek Khanna. "This legislation is exactly what the digital community was asking for," he told us in a phone interview. "It's exactly what the small cell phone providers were looking for. Unlike the other legislation, it actually solves the problem."

Sherwin Siy, an attorney at the advocacy group Public Knowledge said that the bill "addresses a longstanding problem with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. For too long, the DMCA has been a barrier to consumers, educators, researchers, and others, in ways that don't even protect artists."

"We intuitively understand that if we buy something, we should have the right to modify it, unlock it, or repair it," said Sina Khanifar, the activist who started the White House unlocking petition and the founder of the activist website FixTheDMCA. "But the DMCA denies us those rights, and it's critical that we push Congress to pass a bill like the one proposed by Rep. Lofgren and her co-sponsors."

Hopefully this bill gets some traction in Congress and gets passed. Of course it will have to fight against a tide of influence bought by groups like the RIAA, MPAA, and plenty of others that like the DMCA just the way it is...

You can read a summary of the bill here (PDF).

Source: Ars Technica


Re: Real DMCA Reform: The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013

I was really worried when Thomas Massie was voted in here in Kentucky, but I'm really glad to see his name tied to something like this. Maybe I was wrong about him?

- Physical media forever!

Re: Real DMCA Reform: The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013

This seems pretty good for consumers.


Meaning it doesn't stand a chance.

Re: Real DMCA Reform: The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013

Too bad that's the case. depending on how the language is done we could unlock any of the consoles, run them modded etc, and install the software we want on them without being canned.

I find it kind of odd that the law is written as to illegalize an act based on intent.  Is this something that is normal for laws, ie, Is it often illegal to perform an act contingent on intent? I don't know how many laws are worded, but it seems odd that the condition for legality is on the 'intent' Does the law write out what the definition of intent is in relation to copyright circumvention?

Re: Real DMCA Reform: The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013

All laws are based on intent. For instance we have killing someone. Did you do it in self defense? Was it premeditated? Was it an accident? Was it unintentional?

Basing the circumvention of DRM on why you are doing so is a fair way to address the issue. Not all uses of jailbreaks are illegal. So if you are jailbreaking to be able to play imports or homebrew, you are fine. If you are jailbreaking to play pirated games, you are not fine. However, it should always be on the accuser to show evidence of your illegal intent and/or behavior.

Re: Real DMCA Reform: The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013

i understand that, but the bill summary was pretty ambiguous, maybe the full text defines it, but what is 'intent to circumvent copyright protection.'  Disabling protections on the system to install non-authorized content often has the side-effect of also allowing copyright infringing material to be run on the device, where's the line drawn in this case, and how is it being defined?

Re: Real DMCA Reform: The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013

I think that is going to end up being an issue that is addressed by the courts. For instance, fair use. Fair use is not permission to do what you think is fair. Fair use is a defense that you take up when a copyright holder accuses you of violating their copyright. I would assume that this will be the same. If you are sued or other wise brought to court over jailbreaking, it is up to the accuser to provide evidence that your intent was to infringe and it is up to you to provide evidence of the contrary.

Re: Real DMCA Reform: The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013

The major problem likely to be the accusers themselves.

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