IPR and Consumers Union Submit Request to Allow Consumers to Unlock Mobile Devices

Earlier this week IPR helped Consumers Union file a petition with the Copyright Office that would allow consumers to unlock their mobile phones and similar devices without violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Under the proposed exemption, consumers could use their mobile devices on any wireless network they choose, giving them greater options and extending the life of their devices. Currently, device manufacturers and wireless carriers include software on mobile devices that lock them to particular wireless networks.

Arguably, when consumers attempt to get around those restrictions to access other wireless networks, they could be liable for violating the DMCA. The petition argues that the Copyright Office should exempt that behavior from the DMCA because the restrictions unnecessarily limit competition in the wireless marketplace and discourage consumers from reusing or reselling their devices.

“When consumers can unlock their mobile devices, they are empowered to use their devices as they see fit, including taking them to a competing wireless network, reselling them to other consumers, or seeking lower bills from their current carriers,” the petition states. “The adverse effects created by locking mobile devices to particular wireless networks are extensive because, among other things, they limit consumer choice throughout the life of the device, effectively shorten that life, lead to unnecessary electronic waste, and inhibit competition among wireless carriers and mobile device manufacturers.”

The petition calls on the Copyright Office to exempt both mobile phones and other mobile devices, such as tablets, that function in the same way as mobile phones by allowing consumers to send and receive email or text messages, browse the Internet, or use mobile applications.

With the petition submitted, the Copyright Office next plans to put it and all the proposed exemptions it received out for public comment, likely next spring. To read more about other proposed exemptions and the 2015 DMCA rulemaking, click here.

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