Unlock Law Death Notice: Three Bills Congress Wants To Change The DMCA

In the weeks since Sina Khanifar rallied more than 100,000 people behind his petition to request that the White House change the provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998 that had recently been determined to ban the unlocking of phones and jailbreaking of tablets, other parts of the U.S. government have started to get moving too.

Three different bills were introduced to Congress this week to change the laws and provide the people who buy smartphones and tablets the right to do with those devices what they want.

Here’s a rundown of who is trying to do what and where:

1) Wireless Device Independence Act
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) kicked the week off with this Senate bill that would amend the DMCA’s circumvention policy, which is the part that was recently interpreted by the Library Of Congress as a ban on phone unlocking. The three-page bill seeks to help by filling out exceptions, adding new rules for using software to change a phone’s wireless network, as well as cleaning up some language elsewhere that relate to the exceptions.

2) Wireless Consumer Choice Act
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced this bill later in the week, taking a different approach. The Wireless Consumer Choice Act goes after the Federal Communications Commission, changing how they would enforce the rules. The law requires the FCC to, within 180 days, force “providers of commercial mobile services and commercial mobile data services to permit the subscribers of such services ... to unlock any type of wireless device used to access such services.”

3) Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) Pending Bill
On Friday, the House announced that a bill was about to be introduced by Goodlatte, with bipartisan help from representatives John Conyers (D-Mich.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), and Mel Watt (D-N.C.). We don’t know what Goodlatte intends, but he did say, “as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I intend to work closely with members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to ensure that cell phone users have the ability and freedom to use their cell phone with the carrier of their choosing.”

Khanifar has kept up with all of the bills and scrutinizing the potential effectiveness of each change.

He pointed out after the announced House plans that the latter makes him most hopeful, because it is judiciary committees that really affect the rules.

“Since the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have jurisdiction over all copyright law including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), these are the most relevant representatives involved in this decision making process, and I expect this may be the most significant bill to come out yet,” Khanifar said in a statement Friday afternoon. “Early indications are that it won't address some of the issues that we want solved, but of course you'll get my full commentary once the full text has been released.”

Which of these do you think is most likely to pass? Which one would be most effective? Wouldn’t it be great if those two questions had the same answer? Isn’t it sad how unlikely that is to be true?

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