What the bill would do:
- Make modding, jailbreaking, and unlocking cell phones and other electronics legal.
Unlocking your cell phone, jailbreaking your tablet, or modding a game consoles can all land you in court because of the DMCA's poorly-written "anti-circumvention provision."
- Enable important work by security researchers.
Security researchers have been threatened with lawsuits for researching DRM systems since the law passed in 1998. This has had a direct effect on the safety and security of consumers.
For example, between 2005 and 2007 over 562,000 computers were infected by a "rootkit" vulnerability that Sony BMG distributed as part of the "Extended Copy Protection" DRM system on CDs. In November 2005, J. Alex Halderman discovered the rootkit but was delayed in publishing the results because of concerns that doing so would violate the DMCA.
Read more: The Chilling Effects of the DMCA by Professor Ed Felten.
- Make it legal to repair cars, trucks and other electronics.
"Lock-out codes" are increasingly being implemented by manufacturers in their vehicles. These codes are used to prevent maintenance by independent repair shops. Again, no copyright infringement is involved in repairing a broken car, truck, or other device, but the DMCA's vague language can make it a crime.
Read more: Wired: Forget the Cellphone Fight -- We Should Be Allowed to Unlock Everything We Own by Kyle Wiens of iFixit.
- Empower documentary filmmakers, remix artists, teachers, librarians and archivists.
"Fair use" is a doctrine that allows copyrighted works to be used without consent for things like commentary, criticism, news reporting, teaching and archiving. While those uses are protected under Copyright Law, it's become impossible to access the content in the first place without circumventing a DRM system, which under the DMCA is a crime.
Read more: The Atlantic: The Copyright Law We Need to Repeal If We Want To Preserve Our Cultural Heritage, by Benj Edwards.
"The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013" has 3 parts:
- It amends Section 1201 to make it clear that it is completely legal to "circumvent" if there is no copyright infringement.
- It legalizes tools and services that enable circumvention as long as they are intended for non-infringing uses.
- It changes Copyright Law to specify that unlocking cell phones is not copyright infringement.
You can read the full text of the bill here.
Who wrote the bill?
The "Unlocking Technology Act of 2013" was introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO).
Take a moment and tweet @RepZoeLofgren, @RepThomasMassie, and @JaredPolis and thank them!