Right now in the US, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act prevents unauthorized unlocking of smartphone hardware for operation on another carrier. In the past, unlocking had been awarded a specific DMCA exemption, but after that rule failed to be renewed, the practice returned to illegality. Ever since, there’s been talk from multiple branches of government suggesting that a change of law needs to happen, firmly establishing the legitimacy of unlocking. We’ve discussed some of these efforts in the past, but now it looks like real headway is finally being made, as the Senate passes the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act.
The bill improves upon a similar version already approved by the House, eliminating restrictions on bulk unlocking of handsets for resale. Assuming this new legislation is also able to pass in the House, the law would require the previous DMCA exemption to be reinstated, and further direct the Library of Congress to reconsider the exemption the next time it makes such rules. In that light, it falls a bit short of a permanent solution, but barring a more substantial dismantling of the DMCA, it sounds like this is the best we could hope to get.
Senator Patrick Leahy’s office is now coordinating with House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte in efforts to get this new bill enshrined as law before the end of the year.