Legal Personal Technology

Copyright Office Acts For Consumers

It was a throw-away paragraph at the bottom of a page in the business section of last Thursday’s Seattle Times, a little blurb from AP about actions of the US Copyright office. The significance of the decision was evidenced by the headline: "Cellphones’ reuse one of 6 new rights."

I sat it aside to research and forgot it — until I started shopping for cellphones online (again) this weekend. Then I remembered something about cellphone owners being allowed to break software locks on their cellphones. Hmmm. This means any phone can be an unlocked phone, right?

Right indeed. The Seattle PI had a big(ger) story about the action today:

[A] ruling by the U.S. Copyright Office that went into effect Monday now allows cell phone users to legally break the software "lock" placed on their cell phones and move their phones from one carrier to another.

The ruling doesn’t prevent cellular companies from locking a phone, but if a consumer unlocks it he wouldn’t be in violation of copyright infringement rules, said Jennifer Granick, executive director of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society.

"It’s great for consumers," said Granick, who argued in support of the exemption…

Unlocking a phone requires entering codes or a special set of numbers, which a cellular company may or may not share with the user. Verizon Wireless doesn’t lock its cell phones. T-Mobile will unlock a customer’s phone 90 days after fulfillment of the contract. Sprint won’t unlock phones because it believes customers already benefit from a Sprint-subsidized phones, said Travis Sowders, a spokesman for Sprint Nextel. Cingular will do it upon request but only when a contract expires or under specific conditions, said Mike Broom, a Cingular spokesman.

Hmmm. This puts a different view on my (tentative) decision to go with Cingular. This attitude, coupled with JD Powers survey reports on Cingular … makes me lean back to T-Mobile. Maybe.

All I know is that I want GSM and that the phone needs to work in South Georgia, for when I go home to see my dad. I think I want a camera phone, until I swing back to wanting a SmartPhone. I don’t want Microsoft OS. I like Nokia and Palm, and I’d rather not pay full price for an-already unlocked phone (especially since the phone providers seem to have no provision for selling me cheaper airtime if I have my own phone).

Suggestions welcomed. ;-)

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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