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Phone unlocking is almost legal: It’s passed the Senate!

As it stands now, if you want to unlock your phone, or unchain it from AT&T or the network you use, it’s a complicated, sometimes impossible task. This is because certain sections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act forbid cell phone unlocking. While there was an exemption in place that pertained to unlocking your cell phone, it wasn’t renewed. However, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act looks to change that, and it passed the Senate earlier today.

If the bill sounds familiar, that’s because it passed the U.S. House of Representatives back in February. However, that version of the bill disallowed cell phone unlocking in order to conduct “bulk unlocking.” In other words, business wouldn’t be allowed to buy phones, unlock them, and turn around to sell them to consumers. Now they can. In addition, the version that passed through the Senate now allows consumers to ask a third party, like a company or a technician, to unlock a phone for them.

As good as this may sound, the bill should not be seen as a permanent solution to legalizing phone unlocking. It will require the Library of Congress to put the previous DMCA exemption back in place and lets the Library of Congress to reconsider the exemption when the time comes for possible renewal. We are hopeful, however, that the bill will help pave a path to permanent legalization of phone unlocking.

Now that it passed the Senate, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is coordinating with the House of Representatives bill author, Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), to make sure the bill is signed into law by President Obama by the end of the year.

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