Smartphones offer a world of virtually endless possibilities. Between instant access to the entire Internet, ability to download millions of application software, free mapping technology, cameras and so much more, smartphones are truly an incredible tool, and it is becoming harder and harder to go through life without one as time goes on. Unlocking your smartphones is something that’s been a grey area of conversation for a little over a year now. Back in early 2013, the United States government made it illegal for consumers to unlock their smartphones. This went through when an exemption to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act expired, an act that made the act of unlocking smartphones legal. Rather than renew this exemption, the US government let it slide by. As a result, the act of unlocking a smartphone as been illegal for over an entire year. People didn’t sit idly by though when this happened. People got together, put petitions together and sent them to the White House as a response in outrage. The White House supported this, other parts of the government got behind this, and believe it or not, the petition actually went through.
A few days ago on August 1st, the White House made a public announcement that United States President Barack Obama would be signing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act into law. With this law now signed by the President, consumers can now continue to unlock their devices for use on other mobile networks. As it stood before all of this went down in early 2013, people can get assistance from mobile carriers if help is needed with unlocking their phones.
This is fantastic news, but the act of unlocking your smartphone isn’t entirely secure for good. This law that was signed is simply the restoration of the DMCA exemption that expired. What does this mean? It means that if the government forgets to restore this exemption again when the time comes, we could be facing the exact same situation we faced over a year ago. The United States Copyright Office gathers everyone together once every three years to discuss what exemptions should continue to be allowed in the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). They will meet once again in 2015 to discuss these exemptions, and it is very well possible that they could decide to not renew the exemption that allows people to unlock their smartphones.
When the news went down that the US government would not allow us to unlock our smartphones, it raised good areas of conversation. Should the government be allowed to say what we can and can’t do with our phones? These conversations are still going on today, and if the exemption fails to get renewed once again, we could be facing a real mess on our hands with the relationship between the government and consumers. It’s great that consumers were able to get their petition passed, but now we just have to wait and see if it stays active after the meeting in 2015 to discuss exemptions in the DMCA. Only time will tell from this point on.