I got an email a little while ago from the White House, saying that the Obama administration agreed with a petition I'd signed arguing that the recent ban by the library of congress on unlocking your phone so it can be used on different networks should be overturned. (More accurately, as the official response explains, the Librarian of Congress has the power to create exemptions from the DMCA, and recently chose to rescind the exemption for cell phones that is otherwise implied by the law.) From the official response:
The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren't bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It's common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers' needs.
I waited to write about it, though, until at least one professional source commented on it, because the petition came out in favor of phone unlocking, but also admitted that there was very little the administration could do about it. Slate covered it about an hour and a half ago, and brought up the context I was most interested in:
Skeptics of the petition, which Slate first reported on in January, have pointed out that Obama might not have the power to overturn the Library of Congress' fiat even if he wanted to. But the White House works in mysterious ways. On the same day that the administration released its response, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski also came out in favor of legalizing unlocking, and the Library of Congress itself released a statement agreeing that the unlocking rule "would benefit from review and resolution" in the context of telecommunications policy.
That doesn't mean the Library of Congress will necessarily reverse its October decision to remove the exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that had made unlocking legal. But there's a chance it could lead to something a lot of techies, libertarians, and consumer advocates would appreciate even more: reform of the controversial copyright act itself. The cellphone unlocking restrictions could turn out to be an excellent demonstration of the many ways in which the act overreaches the goals of legitimate copyright protection.