Unlocking Technology Act 2013: Is Congress Ready to Let Us Unlock Our Own Phones?

After years of failing to create a permanent solution to the legality of unlocking electronic devices, Congress has finally come up with a bill that would give consumers the right to do so without having to worry about violating copyright laws. The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 was introduced in response to a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 ,which forbids jailbreaking or unlocking electronic devices without consent from the original carrier.

"This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives," Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said after introducing the bill to Congress. "Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased. 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, along with the three other representatives responsible for creating the bill, Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), have garnered the support of nearly 115,000 Americans who signed a White House petition to fix the DMCA which has had its own history of conflict aside from its issue with unlocking phones. In addition, the Obama administration has also expressed its own support of the bill, but stated that reform would most likely come from an act of Congress.

So why all the fuss about unlocking cell phones and other electronic devices?

Technically, unlocking your phone is allowed as long as you get the consent of the carrier you purchased your device from. The reason that these carriers would not want consumers unlocking their devices without prior consent is to prevent their products from being used by different companies. Unfortunately, such a policy means that everyday consumers could face up to five years in jail and a $500,000 fine for illegally unlocking their phones.

In this day and age, consumers should be given the right to do whatever they want with the products they purchase with their own money. Although the companies selling these products face the risk of losing a certain percentage of their income, they shouldn't have a say in what consumers wish to do. Of course, in order to compensate, companies could simply state that consumers who choose to unlock their devices would simply not be covered under their current warranties.

As founder of the website FixtheDMCA.org, Sina Khanifar, tweeted to Lofgren after her announcement, “Your unlocking bill is awesome. Thank you!”

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Jimmy Tang

Jimmy Tang is a graduate of the American University's School of International Service in Washington, D.C. Currently based in Los Angeles, Jimmy's interests include covering US-Asia relations, Congressional affairs, and institutions of international development.

MORE FROM

White House says it knows of potential Syrian chemical attack, warns Assad of "heavy price"

The Trump administration did not provide any evidence backing the threat.

Serena Williams responds to John McEnroe's comments saying she would rank "like 700" against men

Williams said his statements were "not factually based."

People are way less likely to be helpful when it's hot out, according to study

Sorry, it's too hot out to help you move.

Democrats, the American Medical Association and US bishops blast the Senate health care bill

According to the Congressional Budget Office, 15 million more Americans will be without health insurance next year if the bill passes.

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

White House says it knows of potential Syrian chemical attack, warns Assad of "heavy price"

The Trump administration did not provide any evidence backing the threat.

Serena Williams responds to John McEnroe's comments saying she would rank "like 700" against men

Williams said his statements were "not factually based."

People are way less likely to be helpful when it's hot out, according to study

Sorry, it's too hot out to help you move.

Democrats, the American Medical Association and US bishops blast the Senate health care bill

According to the Congressional Budget Office, 15 million more Americans will be without health insurance next year if the bill passes.

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.