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Tell Your Representatives to Allow Cell Phone Unlocking!

Dear FreedomWorks member,

As one of our millions of FreedomWorks members nationwide, I urge you to contact your representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 1892, the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013. Introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers that includes Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), this bill would simply allow consumers to bypass digital manufacturer locks on devices that they already legally own.

Currently, many popular cell phones and other digital devices, ranging from tablets to the computers in your car, are sold with digital “locks” that prevent users from switching services or otherwise modifying the device. Savvy technology users quickly figured out how to “unlock” these devices so that, for example, once your initial contract runs out on your cell phone, you could then switch service providers.

However, under current law, this modification of a device you legally own is a crime.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 1998 law, makes all tampering with manufacturer hardware of software device locks illegal.  While this is theoretically to protect copyrights, it is clear that this law is outdated when it prevents people from making basic alterations to devices they have legally purchased.

Under the DMCA, every three years the Librarian of Congress gets to decide whether unlocking should be allowed.  From 2006-2012, cell phone unlocking was made legal, allowing smaller service providers into the market for cell phone service, which had been dominated by the few large providers whose services were locked into the most popular brands of cell phones.  However, in 2013 the Library of Congress changed its mind, and cell phone unlocking became illegal once more.

The Unlocking Technology Act would simply make permanent the ability to unlock legally owned cell phones and other electronic devices. The bill is careful to specify that using unlocked devices to violate copyright is still illegal, but otherwise consumers will once again be free to make lawful use of their own property as they see fit.

The freedom to use and modify an item you have bought and paid for is just simple common sense, and it is time that outdated technology laws be changed to reflect that.  Thus, I urge you to call your representative and urge him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 1892, the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013.

Matt Kibbe
President and CEO