Library of Congress Announces Rule That Will Allow Cell Phone Unlocking

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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) currently prohibits consumers from sidestepping technical measures that prevent modifying copyrighted works  regardless of whether there is any actual copyright infringement. Every three years, the DMCA requires the Librarian of Congress (Librarian) to determine whether there are any classes of copyrighted works for which noninfringing uses are, or in the next three years are likely to be, adversely affected by the prohibition. Historically, the Librarian has provided an exemption to allow the “unlocking” of handset software to allow consumers to use their wireless handsets on alternative wireless networks.

The Librarian has issued new rules outlining when it’s legal to circumvent copy-protection systems. Generally, breaking encryption in a product in order to repair it has been deemed legal.  Further, if a consumer lawfully buys a cell phone, tablet, fitness tracker, or similar device, the consumer may now unlock the software in order to change service providers. This expands on the previous ruling that was limited to cell phones, and removes the previous requirement that the phones be used.

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