New law will fix the DMCA, make jailbreaking, unlocking and interoperability legal - your help needed!

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) have introduced a landmark technology bill called The Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 [PDF] that reforms the way our devices our regulated. It fixes a glaring hole in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), changing the rules so that you are allowed to remove restrictions and locks from your devices provided that you don't violate other laws (as it stands, removing a lock, even to do something legal, like installing unapproved software on your iPhone or change carriers, is banned by the DMCA). The bill clarifies that security researchers don't violate the law by publishing information about flaws in the devices we trust and depend upon, and makes it legal to break "lock-out codes" that stop mechanics from fixing cars.

This is a watershed moment in 21st century technology law, and it's desperately needed. Every day that goes by sees us more dependent on devices that are increasingly designed to be as opaque as possible -- devices made by companies whose business-model treats customers as adversaries who undermine profits when they turn to third parties for software, repairs and services. It is only the presence of the terrible rules in the DMCA that makes this business attractive -- without these rules, technology locks would be quickly broken in the marketplace and competition -- as well as transparency -- would thrive. If you want to be sure that the devices that fill your rooms, your pockets -- and increasingly, your body -- are well-behaved and trustworthy, please support this bill. and a broad coalition of groups are calling on Americans to write to their representatives in support of this bill. Until now, almost all technology activism has been reactive, fighting against bad rules. We finally have the chance to make some good rules, to establish a positive agenda for freedom, trustworthiness and transparency in the devices that form the nervous system of the 21st century.

"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.

Finally, there's a bill in Congress that legalizes cell phone unlocking and fixes the DMCA.


  1. An even bigger reason for passing this measure is the environmental impact. Devices that are locked so that they cannot be repaired are part of a vicious cycle of ever faster obsolescence and replacement. The companies that promote locking benefit by determining when customers have to throw out their current devices and buy new ones, sometimes even forcing this by making software updates that are not backwards compatible. The resource implications of this process are enormous – both the extraction of raw materials (including precious metals) needed to build new devices, and the ever growing problem of e-waste. Making it legal to unlock and repair our own devices is a vital step towards a greener economy.

  2. I’ve say this all the time… 20/30 years from now we will look back and realize the similarities between our addiction for smartphones and such and how select industry and Madison avenue also once addicted us to cigarettes.

  3. It’s the right thing, but for that very reason Hollywood will pull out all the stops to kill it. It would make it completely legal, for example, to use  a free software DVD player program with libdvdcss to play DVDs from other regions (lots of people are doing this already, but it would take away the legal risk of packaging and distributing the needed software widely to non-geeks).

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