The days of unlocking cell phones to use on your choice of wireless carrier are over, as far as the DMCA act is concerned. According to the major U.S. mobile service providers, unlocking a phone bought after January 26 without your carrier’s permission violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or “DMCA” regardless of whether the phone is under contract or not. SiliconANGLE Founding Editor Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins joined Kristin Feledy on the Morning NewsDesk Show to discuss the latest cell phone controversy.
The DMCA act, which was signed into law in October of 1998, was originally designed around copyright infringements, anti-piracy and protection of digitized content, such as music and movies, just to name a few of the areas covered under the act.
Hopkins referenced the history of record label and motion picture companies who have gone to war with their customers over intellectual property rights. He painted a hypothetical picture where, under some kind of disruptive circumstances, if the wireless carriers were to lose power and see their profits erode, people who unlock phones could easily become the scapegoats in litigation cases.
The potential penalties for violating the DMCA in this manner could be up to $2,500 per unlocked phone in a civil suit and either a $500,000 fine or five years in prison in a criminal case where the phone was unlocked for “commercial advantage.”
“If you have a phone . . . that was bought through any kind of subsidized plan, and you’re doing anything that violates the terms of service or allows you to somehow remove or change the default apps . . . or in any way mess with the carrier programming, this is all going to fall under that same category,” Hopkins explained, when asked if jailbreaking or rooting your phone also applies to violations of the DMCA. “The whole DMCA is an unnecessary law.”
While Hopkins believes that there is a place for copyright laws and copyright protection, he claims that should fall under civil law. He said, “We all benefit when copyright restrictions are dialed way back from where they are in the world right now.” See the entire segment with Kristin Feledy and Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins on the Morning NewsDesk Show.