Look! A Bill!! Meh… What Else is on?
It is truly great to see that the United States has a rather active Government that worries about its people. Its people have opportunities to speak their mind and make requests to all the branches of this bureaucratic machine, and they are bound to get a response in one shape or another. This seems to be the case for the “little petition that could,” in which over 114,000 people expressed and shared their concerns with the US Government regarding network unlocking of devices legally purchased. This petition received official replies from the White House and the Librarian of Congress, and gained nationwide interest, thus making what many thought would be a silly “nerd rage-filled rant” into a topic of national importance. However, as with most systems, this one is not one without its faults and pitfalls, thus making it quite imperfect.
For the sake of illustration, just imagine that you had a 3 year old silver Civic that was dying and that you wanted a bright red Ferrari. Someone told you that if you worked hard enough and made a certain amount of money within a 2 month period, there would be a chance for you to get your hands on the wonderful beast. Two months later, you had completed your target, got all the money you needed, some people winked at you when you asked if you would get it (raising your hopes in the process). Then, that someone puts a blindfold on you and takes you outside. You proceed to take the blindfold off and upon opening your eyes, you see your 3 year old silver Honda Civic, but with a fixed engine.
Are you happy to have a car? Sure, but to say that you are disappointed would be the understatement of the year. You are simply baffled and trying to pull yourself together in dismay as to what kind of person would lift your hopes high up in such a manner. This was the case for the bill that everyone in the mobile scene was waiting for. Earlier yesterday, US Senator Patrick Leahy (Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee) along with several other Senators from both parties announced the drafting of a new bill that they were hoping to pass in the hopes of addressing the issues raised against the Librarian of Congress’ new incarnation of the DMCA. More specifically, the bill, known as the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, was aimed to target the cell phone unlocking debacle as well as the consideration for tablets. At first sight, the law addresses the main concern presented to Congress, but when you sit down and analyze it a bit further, its that fixed up 3 year old Civic.
There are several concerns regarding the wording on the write up like the fact that it will still be up to the carriers to grant you an unlock code while you are on contract. On the flip side, at the very core, the law would reinstate the 2010 exemption that made it legal for people to pursue other “venues” to get their devices unlocked. It still grants a lot of power to the carriers, but at least it does not grant them complete control, which the removal of said exemption was achieving. The problem (the elephant in the room if you will) is the fact that the law fails to address the main, biggest point of this entire ordeal: why is this in the DMCA in the first place? Why are we depending on the (lack of) knowledge of someone who is not an elected official to determine the future of our rights as consumers with products that we legally own? In other words, why is this harbored/lumped with a law SPECIFICALLY made to tackle piracy? Unlocking cell phones has 0, zip, null, nada to do with piracy and/or intellectual property rights. Yet the decision on this will be based solely on the following:
9 upon the recommendation of the Register of Copyrights,
10 who shall consult with the Assistant Secretary for Commu-
11 nications and Information of the Department of Com-
12 merce and report and comment on his or her views in mak-
13 ing such recommendation, shall determine, consistent with
14 the requirements set forth under section 1201(a)(1) of
15 title 17, United States Code, whether to extend the exemp-
16 tion for the class of works described in section
17 201.40(b)(3) of title 37, Code of Federal Regulations, as
18 amended by subsection (a), to include any other category
19 of wireless devices in addition to wireless telephone
So, the Library of Congress needs to hear from, at least, two departments before anything can be done. Again, this is someone making actual law without being part of the overall process and certainly not someone who is chosen, but rather who applied for a job vacancy. Congress had a wonderful opportunity to separate the wheat from the hay and decided to simply apply a fix. Why a fix you ask? The DMCA exemptions and provisions are revised every 3 years. If this long standing provision was taken out without much thought or consideration, who is to say that we will not be here once again 3 years from now? CTIA will certainly still be there much like the little red guy standing on your left shoulder telling you to set your building on fire. They went through great lengths and found a twisted enough argument to sound pseudo-plausible, and 3 years is an eternity in terms of mobile development. So, chances are that we will find ourselves here fighting once again. However, lets assume that we fix it yet again 3 years from now. We will be back in 2019, this time around from within the Matrix and trying to avoid Sentinels.
There are enough experts on the scene to give the people who need the explanation, the best possible and most logical, level-headed argument they will ever get to hear. And best of all, it comes from the people with the people’s interest in mind. I made a small point in my previous article about the Library of Congress’s statement about the general public being consulted prior to amending DMCA. Maybe they should follow their own processes and ask ACTUAL PEOPLE as opposed to corporation conglomerates when the time comes to make law.
It looks like we have gotten quite good at making noise, so maybe we should make one final stance before this band-aid comes to pass. Please share any and all articles with colleagues, media outlets, your Congressmen and Senators, all the people who need to see this in order to make the voices heard. We did our share of work, we expressed our views and told them why things should be different. Please, lets try to push forward so we can finally get rid of that Civic and go for the Ferrari.
You can find the entire proposed law in the following link and the official announcement made by the Senator of Vermont by following this link. Additional links with interesting articles can be found in PublicKnowledge and TechDirt,
Thanks for reading.
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