28 January 2013

DCMA needs to die

we can thank bill clinton for signing this stupid law into effect. and now the stupidity has taken new levels. the library of congress has declared that unlocking mobile phones to be illegal under the DCMA.

mike stoltz from the EFF (electronic frontier foundation) sums it up in this quote to engadget:

“This shows just how absurd the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is: a law that was supposed to stop the breaking of digital locks on copyrighted materials has led to the Librarian of Congress trying to regulate the used cellphone market.”

for most people who are don’t care about using their phone other than given to them by the carriers, this will pass them by quietly. for the rest of us who would rather actually own the devices for which we paid money, it’s huge red flag.

what i would hope for is that this is the beginning of decoupling phones from carriers. as in the rest of the world, i can walk into an electronics store and buy a phone, any phone. then i can walk across the street to a carrier, any carrier, and get an account and a sim card, plug that sim card into my new phone, and it all just works.

i see two beneficial aspects to the customer:

  1. it causes phone manufacturers to make phone with features that are competitive with other phone despite carrier contracts. that means more phone sales for the companies since carrier contracts don’t include limited phone selections at the beginning. competition between mobile device companies increases for better phone offered on any network, opening the pool for sales.

  2. it causes the carriers to improve their networks rather than bank on the phones to bring in their customers. that means they have to focus on their networks and services rather than looking to lock people into their contracts based on a phone selection. competition is encouraged, including lower rates for us.

now, maybe i’ve not looked at this completely or correctly, so i welcome feedback to correct any misconceptions. but if this policy works for the rest of the world, i could work for us. and i would say it should be the case for our mobile device market.

related articles:
CNET: Unauthorized unlocking of smartphones becomes illegal Saturday
Ars Tecnica: Unlocking new cell phones to become illegal on Saturday
Engadget: Unlocking new phones now banned under DMCA, the EFF weighs in