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Let our smartphones go

Let our smartphones go

More unintended consequences of laws which are too broadly worded.

The Atlantic writer Derek Khanna recently named the Most Ridiculous New Law – 2013 a provision which previously had been waived but has come back making it illegal to “unlock” your cellphone.  And while there is plenty of time left in this year for more inanity, it is hard to imagine another one that could compete.

This is now the law of the land:




PENALTY: In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.*

That’s right, starting this weekend it is illegal to unlock new phones to make them available on other carriers.

And exactly when was it decided that unlocking your Smartphone qualifies as a crime? Khanna provides some background on how this law came to be:

Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 to outlaw technologies that bypass copyright protections. This sounds like a great idea, but in practice it has terrible, and widely acknowledged, negative consequences that affect consumers and new innovation. The DMCA leaves it up to the Librarian of Congress (LOC) to issue exemptions from the law, exceptions that were recognized to be necessary given the broad language of the statute that swept a number of ordinary acts and technologies as potential DMCA circumvention violations.

Every three years groups like the American Foundation for the Blind have to lobby Congress to protect an exception for the blind allowing for books to be read aloud. Can you imagine a more ridiculous regulation than one that requires a lobby group for the blind to come to Capitol Hill every three years to explain that the blind still can’t read books on their own and therefore need this exception?

Until recently it was illegal to jailbreak your own iPhone, and after Saturday it will be illegal to unlock a new smartphone, thereby allowing it to switch carriers. This is a result of the exception to the DMCA lapsing. It was not a mistake, but rather an intentional choice by the Librarian of Congress, that this was no longer fair use and acceptable. The Electronic Frontier Foundation among other groups has detailed the many failings of the DMCA Triennial Rulemaking process, which in this case led to this exception lapsing.

“Washington D.C.’s  overreaching focus on  intellectual property minutia should chill everyone to their core,” says San Diego Citizen activist and the SoCal Tax Revolt Coalition’s social media expert Sarah B.  “And while everyone is distracted with the newly enhanced attacks on our Second Amendment privileges, let’s not forget that  hobbling the First  is their real goal.”

The article notes that it is conservatives that are fighting the law and pushing back on other similar restrictions. In part, it is because it is the new media and technologies that offer Americans a choice in selecting different political views. Interestingly, when it comes to this type of choice, progressives don’t seem to be quite on the same page.

Khanna concludes:

I for one am pro-choice with regard to my smartphone. Our representatives ought to be, as well.


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I am reminded of the National Lampoon cover showing a woman and child cowering in fear while a pair of black gloved hands reaches out…to tear the “Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law” tag from a mattress.

The bureaucratic state is something conservatives cannot blame solely on the left, but this does illustrate how what is in effect legislation–and what is deciding under which conditions someone may lose liberty or property but not the proper ambit of the legislature?–is given to essentially unaccountable bodies.

Everything’s a crime ad the government will decide when to prosecute–but conservative worries about individual liberty are silly.

It’s a sad day when unlocking a cell phone can net you a half-mil fine and 5-years in the can, yet walk into this country illegally and you can get a drivers license, welfare assistance, and an Obamaphone. No need for you to unlock the Obamaphone ’cause it’s all free!

    That’s no coincidence, nor an accident. They have a well-crafted plan, and they’re executing it.

    John Boehner is in a corner somewhere, nursing a drink, trying to figure out why Obama is trying to destroy the GOP.

    If we go down, we will have gone down because of the lameness of the Boehners, not the craftiness of the left. It’s not too late to get rid of this guy, and replace him with a warrior.

Capitalism and entrepreneurialism may have created all these amazing ICT innovations but now that these tech and communications companies have both an established market and political power, Statism seems like a better economic model going forward.

Seriously. This comes up all the time as part of where these education reforms are really going. It always comes back to stopping the process of Creative Destruction by preventing minds capable of innovation.

And the UN of course which mostly consists of staist to dictatorial regimes thinks that it would be a good idea, for them, if the rest of us follow suit. lays out this education and economic vision.

If you think having Jeffrey Sachs chairing the UN’s Broadband Commission as well as the Global Happiness Report is likely to produce more Statism in the name of Equity for All, you get an A in Global Dirigisme 101.

It is a harbinger of things to come — and come shortly.

If you live in a major US city, have you noticed military helicopters drilling in the sky above? I saw them myself. Then I saw this story:

It’s happening.

Maybe a period of anarchy would not be all that bad. After all, the current period of regulation leaves much to be desired whether it be 2nd Amendment gun rights or the simple right to choose your phone and then choose your carrier.

Anyone up for becoming a party to the 99% who would like for guv’ment to get out of our affairs?

I’m ready… Let’s occupy the Library of Congress for starters!

The Library of Congress?

When the Library of Congress can deliver statues with $1MM fines and 5 years behind bars, Federal power has gone waaaay tooo far.

Your formerly friendly librarians are now tyrannical, statist control freaks.

We’ve been living with the stupid side effects of the DMCA for years. Ever wonder why you can’t skip right to the menu or even skip some “previews” when you sit down to watch a DVD? That’s the DMCA in action.

What does skipping previews or fast forwarding through interpol warnings written in foreign languages have to do with copyright protection? Nothing… directly. But in order for DVD player manufacturers to get the “keys” to unlock the content of DVD’s, they have to sign an agreement with a consortium of content creators. That agreement stipulates the manufacturer must obey all “uops” encoded in the DVD (uops are the instructions that say what you can/can’t do), or they don’t get a key. Any method of working around this roadblock (that has nothing to do with protecting copyright) is considered bypassing a copyright protection measure…

So, even though you used to be able to fast forward through that stuff in the days of VHS, you’ve lost that “right” for digital media.

Leslie, we need a follow-up. How do we go about fighting this? Who should we email or call to make some noise?