Why won’t the government let you “unlock” your phone?
Suppose you’re upset with your cell-phone carrier, and you’d like to switch. Under current law, you can take your phone number with you when you leave. But if you want to take your phone? Forget it.
Ever since an obscure rule protecting the process of “unlocking” expired from copyright law last month, it’s been illegal to port your device to another carrier. In fact, any American who’s ever unlocked his or her phone is now at risk for steep fines, court battles with carriers, and even jail time.
But a team of copyright activists has been lobbying the government to keep unlocking legal. And early Thursday morning, they won a small victory: Their petition to the White House finally accumulated 100,000 signatures, meaning it must now be met with an official government response. …
In particular, the petition requests that President Obama ask the Library of Congress to reconsider its stance on unlocking–and if that doesn’t work, to press Congress for legislative action. An ideal bill would protect four activities, Khanna told me: adaptive technology for the blind, such as the kind that scans books and handwriting into text computers can display; backing up DVDs to your computer; jail-breaking your phone so that you can modify it beyond the manufacturer’s preferred limits; and unlocking.