Real DMCA Reform: The Unlocking Technology Act of 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

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