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Cell Phone Owners Allowed To Break Software Locks 305

Posted by samzenpus
from the free-at-last dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The library of congress approved many copyright exemptions today. Among the exemptions were new rules about cell phones, DVDs, and electronic books." From the article: "Cell phone owners will be allowed to break software locks on their handsets in order to use them with competing carriers under new copyright rules announced Wednesday. Other copyright exemptions approved by the Library of Congress will let film professors copy snippets from DVDs for educational compilations and let blind people use special software to read copy-protected electronic books. All told, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington approved six exemptions, the most his Copyright Office has ever granted. For the first time, the office exempted groups of users. The new rules will take effect Monday and expire in three years. In granting the exemption for cell phone users, the Copyright Office determined that consumers aren't able to enjoy full legal use of their handsets because of software locks that wireless providers have been placing to control access to phones' underlying programs."
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Cell Phone Owners Allowed To Break Software Locks

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:19AM (#16962700)
    first place and reversing the DMCA? Especially with crap that I buy and should be used in a manner I see fit short of mass distributing it to other anonymous people.

    These exemptions are nice and all, and I know the Library of Congress does not have the authority to do more (only Congress itself or the SoC can repeal the DMCA) - but I feel I'm got punched in the face and the LoC is passing by and helpfully giving me a tooth back. What about all the other missing teeth?
    • but I feel I'm got punched in the face and the LoC is passing by and helpfully giving me a tooth back. What about all the other missing teeth?

      That pretty much sums it up. I was thinking of it more like you just got the shit kicked out of you by someone, and the LoC was too weak to do anything to help you, but now that you're lying facedown in a puddle of your own blood he'll helpfully get you an ice pack.

      These concessions are great, but they're like the Warden giving you an extra ration of food, when you're not supposed to be in jail in the first place. We shouldn't have to have these concessions granted -- all the things mentioned in the summary are common sense, and ought not be protected by copyright in the first place.

      Plus, these concessions are just three years. Since they're not permanent, if they're not renewed constantly, they disappear. That makes them hard to count on in the future. When the media lobby got its copyright extension last time, I can't help but notice that there wasn't an expiration or "lets revisit this in 5 years" date; it was permanent.
    • The thing is that you get cellphones for free (or for a low price, depending on how fancy the phone is) if you're on a contract, so making it possible to switch to any provider would mean you can get your phone for free - though presumably if you cancel your contract you'd have to give the phone back
    • by simonwalton (843796) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @08:43AM (#16963450)
      I don't understand this story. Can someone give a car analogy please?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``How about not treating me like a criminal in the first place and reversing the DMCA?''

      Exactly. Nothing against rights holders protecting their rights, but if the DRM scheme prevents me from exercising my fair use rights, and I circumvent the scheme in order to exercise those rights, I don't feel _I_ should be the criminal.
  • sweet (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    turkey and some decent rules

    what a good day
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:22AM (#16962712)
    With copyright laws being so complicated and contradicting, people care less and less about them. Since it's virtually impossible not to break them, a general "I'm prolly guilty already anyway, who cares?" attitude is spreading.

    The more laws you have, the more crime you create.
    • by robpoe (578975) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:45AM (#16962804)
      Interesting viewpoint - and one I highly agree with.

      I wouldn't care so much about DRM - because I don't re-share files. If I purchase music, I'd like the opportunity to do with it as I see fit - and might even put the digital music on a family member's computer/music player.

      Take Peanut Press for example. They encrypt(ed?) their books with your full name and credit card #. I didn't mind putting that on a few trusted friend's PDA's - but I'm not going to re-distribute it across hell and back.

      I wouldn't even mind some kind of secure but un-protected form of music / content.

      The digital content I purchased is watermarked in some un-removable way. If I share that music, then I'm liable in some form. Or I lose my ability to purchase more. That would work even better than losing my rights to what I already have. I'd be careful about my files if that were the case..

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:58AM (#16963070)
        Can you imagine some guy taking your credit card info, purchasing lots of DRMed file protected by your name/CC# as you describe and then torrenting the hell out of them?

        Now the company sues you.

        I sure can imagine it. CC info theft is nearly trivial and not uncommon.

        There are also holes in your other thoughts - files on a Windows computer can be distributed without owner's knowledge. I can imagine bots that spefically look for those files after they infect their host. And then send them into the ether.

        About you not minding DRM - that's noble of you. But I want to wait on you decision after you change a couple of music players, the formats of your videos change, and E-books become the norm but not a standard. When your friends can't swap movies, music, etcetera with you because you all have different players that are completly incompitable with each other not because of a hardware problem (being digital) but as a programmed in limitation.

        Great ideas you have. Very noble, sacrificing your rights to the poor corporations in all our names so you can have some shortterm convenience. Thanks for playing the idiot game. Please come again.
      • What happens when your laptop gets stolen? What happens when someone implants a trojan on your computer that allows him free access to your data?

        There are so many opportunities for (and cases of) data theft that being liable for the leaking could well be a can of worms you don't even want to think about opening.
    • Actually, the more laws you have, the more the system is constrained to act rationally.

      Consider this. There is one law (I'll steal a commandment): Thou shalt not kill.

      Every soldier, police officer, self-defending individual, hunter, hell--anyone who's ever stepped on an ant has broken the law. It doesn't say anything about killing other humans, or whether the killing was intentional or justified. Law is complicated; there are many good reasons why lawyers are specialized professionals--a lot of la
      • The 10 commandments are a very good example of laws that should be applied with a sensible brain. Too bad its fiercest advocates usually lack the latter.

        That's the reason why we have judges, not judging machines. The theory behind it is that a judge can sensibly apply a law and, given some leeway, can come up with sensible verdicts that make sense in the context of the case at hand.

        But the legislative doesn't want to hand over that much responsibility to the third power. So we get more laws with more except
        • Precisely. The only difference is that the commandments aren't simple, and they aren't always easy to apply. There is quite a lot of disagreement about "common sense" interpretations as well, and it all boils down to politics. One of the things they try to shove down your throat in law school is that law is meant to be apolitical--it's a load of crap. Nothing in this world is apolitical, and that's the simple truth. Everything will boil down to personal experience; some judges are going to be sympathet
      • by Dunbal (464142)
        Actually, the more laws you have, the more the system is constrained to act rationally.

              Let me change that - the more laws you have, the more you have an illusion that the system is acting rationally.

              Thou shalt not kill has been around quite a while. Ever since there were laws, in fact. Tell me - has it worked?
        • And how do you differentiate between the illusion of rationality and actual rationality? In order to produce the illusion, the outcome has to match that of the real thing. As long as the right answer is achieved, who cares whether the equation that produced "36" was 6x6 or 9x4?

          Has 'thou shalt not kill worked'? For 99.9999% of the population, yes (given 16,000 murders for 290 million people in 2001 in this country). I imagine if there were no consequences for killing someone else, there would be a dra
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Dunbal (464142)
            I imagine if there were no consequences for killing someone else, there would be a dramatic increase in murder rates.

            So we are bound by your imagination? In actual fact - perhaps you should look at some poorer countries that have less ability to enforce. You'll find that the murder rates are not much higher and in some cases even lower. And look at Iraq - where there's a cop or soldier on virtually every street corner. How is THEIR murder rate?

            See not killing peop
    • by Jekler (626699)

      I agree that copyright laws are too complicated. I don't even believe in the idea of copyright, although I do follow it solely because it's law.

      I don't think more laws create more crime.

      More Laws : More Crime
      Lowering The Passing Grade : Smarter Students

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``With copyright laws being so complicated and contradicting, people care less and less about them. Since it's virtually impossible not to break them, a general "I'm prolly guilty already anyway, who cares?" attitude is spreading.''

      That may be true of natural persons, but companies can't have such a lax attitude. Before you know it, you have an audit on your hands...and if things aren't in order, you could lose everything you've built up, perhaps more.

      Also, I'm not sure wholesale copyright violation is a Go
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:24AM (#16962714)
    Namely, the precedent of whitelisting the allowed activity in terms of excercising the fair-use rights.
    • Actually, it's whitelisting actions which are/were categorically illegal at the present time. Whether or not they should have been made illegal in the first place is a separate issue. This isn't a bad precedent; in fact, it's not a precedent at all, really.
      • by wrook (134116)

        Actually, it's whitelisting actions which are/were categorically illegal at the present time. Whether or not they should have been made illegal in the first place is a separate issue. This isn't a bad precedent; in fact, it's not a precedent at all, really.

        Actually, I don't agree. How exactly was unlocking the SIM lock on a phone contravening the DMCA? It's is not, and was never, a copy protection measure. It was not implemented that way and does not function that way. It was intended to be a measur

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is along the same lines of Alexander Hamilton's problem with the Bill of Rights. You shouldn't have to enumerate the rights the people have, they have them all! When you list them, you implicitely say that's all the rights they have.
  • Technicalities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moatra (1019690) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:33AM (#16962758)
    In a purely technical point of view, what's the difference between being allowed to break the lock on your cell phone to enjoy its use to the fullest extent, and say, breaking the lock on your music to use it to its fullest extent? After all, you still paid for both.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      In a purely technical point of view, what's the difference between being allowed to break the lock on your cell phone to enjoy its use to the fullest extent, and say, breaking the lock on your music to use it to its fullest extent? After all, you still paid for both.

      I might buy a phone for $1 and pay it off over 24 months. If I break the lock I am not paying for the phone. If I buy a CD of music the supplier doesn't lose anything if I shift it to a different format.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by 1u3hr (530656)
        I might buy a phone for $1 and pay it off over 24 months. If I break the lock I am not paying for the phone.

        Presumably you signed a contract to pay or subscribe to some service. The contract is still enforcible legally, they just can't hold your phone hostage by locking it up.

      • by anothy (83176) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @08:42AM (#16963444) Homepage
        I might buy a phone for $1 and pay it off over 24 months.
        wow, times must be really tight if you're making monthly payments on a $1 bill. poor guy.
    • Well, the key difference is that you own the phone. You don't own the music you bought and you didn't pay for the rights to use it "to the fullest extent." You paid for a license granting you specific rights, rights which do not include ownership in any consequential form.

      I'm not saying that's the way it should be, but since nobody has bothered to answer your question technically, there it is.
      • by Pofy (471469)
        > You don't own the music you bought

        Yes you do, you own a copy of the music just as you own a copy of the phone.

        >you didn't pay for the rights to use it "to the fullest extent."

        You ojnly need to pay for rights you don't have to start with. Those are, if we talk music, typically copyright which covers a few specific rights as, almost, exclusive to the copyright holder. Other actions or things you do are not restricted or illegal and you don't need to pay for doing them.

        >You paid for a license granti
        • "Yes you do, you own a copy of the music just as you own a copy of the phone." No, you don't. Purchase of intellectual property is a partial transfer of rights from the owner to the licensee. Ownership rights of no kind are conferred by your 99-cent music download. The only thing you "own" is the license, which in turn grants you use of the song. If this were a book, you'd own the paper the book was printed on, but you wouldn't own the contents of the book. Ownership may only derive from tangible objec
  • Smart phones? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by minusX (967653)
    It'd be very interesting to see how this might affect smart phones which have data services tied to carriers(like the Sidekick.)
  • Cellphone locks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eraserewind (446891) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:55AM (#16962848)
    Are not easily breakable except on earlier phones I'm afraid. SIM lock is not like DRM. It is possible to do it properly. For these kind of rulings to be meaningful they need to be backed up by regulation mandating that carriers give the key to unlock it (or not do it in the first place).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:11AM (#16962904)
    From TFA:

      "Other copyright exemptions approved by the Library of Congress will let film professors copy snippets from DVDs for educational compilations"

    In my day, we called this "fair use", and were allowed to do this as an exemption from general copyright rules.

    From TFA:
    "let blind people use special software to read copy-protected electronic books."

    In my day, we called this "use". It's why we buy the item in the first place - in order to use it. Not in order to sign a scarecrow EULA once the box is open.

    Well done America - granting temporary rights to people that they should already have.
    • by mr_matticus (928346) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @08:10AM (#16963318)
      To call this "granting" rights would be a misrepresentation. This is nothing more or less than an attempt to restore certain rights which were made (erroneously) illegal because of the DMCA and related legislation. It's a temporary policy not necessarily out of malice, but simply for convenience in writing legislation. Adding more laws to the books on a permanent basis without observing their consequences might just create an even bigger headache.

      Low opinion of government notwithstanding, the fact that this is coming under mandatory review in 3 years is a good thing. Once again, Slashdot attacks people in government for doing the right thing (in this case, taking steps to correct a previous wrong). Do you honestly think that Congress got together and said, "let's take away our own rights and the rights of our constituents, too!" or is it possible that the DMCA simply fell victim to expert lobbying and a level of severity that simply wasn't anticipated?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``In my day, we called this "fair use", and were allowed to do this as an exemption from general copyright rules.''

      I'm not sure about the situation in the States, but in the Netherlands (as well as other EU countries), "fair use" is more than just "exemptions from general copyright rules": these cases are actually written in the law as rights of the public.

      The EUCD (EU equivalent of the DMCA) explicitly overrides these rights, by stating that effective technical measures that prevent you from doing certain
  • by ZorroXXX (610877) <hlovdal@gmai l . com> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:12AM (#16962906)
    Regarding locked-down handsets, there are two requirements that I think should be imposed. When companies sell equipment that has (technical) usage restrictions from its normal, unlimited usage
    1. such usage restrictions must be time limited (i.e. no phones that never can be used with another operator)
    2. the customer should always have the choice to buy either a restricted or unrestricted version (i.e. a shop cannot only offer to sell you a given phone as part of a subsidized deal, if you want to buy that phone with no restrictions at full price you should be able to do so (at whatever price the shop would classify as full price. I do not want to impose any rules for this, only the principle that the customer always can choose))
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by freedom_india (780002)
      I think point 2 is already done. The prices are too high for you and me to afford. Like $340 for a Moto V3 Razr in RadioShack (unlocked). So that makes us automatically go for the locked one.
      Actually its predatory marketing.
      The recent LoC ruling states that you can buy a Locked phone, break the lock and go scot-free.
      Am sure this "mistake" would be corrected by Telcos when the next congress convenes, making it illegal to unlock any phone.
      Expect a hidden bill whose story would splashing in YRO Slashdot in Fe
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fermion (181285) *
      The claim is that the carriers sell the equipment at a loss, and then make the profits on the multiyear contracts. The current argument is that the cost of acquiring the customer and the discount is so great, that the customer now has to pay extra if only on a one year contract.

      But if the claim that they are losing money on the phone is true, then why won't the activate a phone the customer supplies. The carrier is not losing money on the sale of the phone. The carrier is still getting a contract. The

  • hard questions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mitchskin (226035) <mitchskin&gmail,com> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:41AM (#16963004)
    He's just opened up some pretty tough definition questions. Who counts as a "security researcher"? Who counts as a "film professor"?

    Sign up now to be a faculty member in the film department of my brand new internet university!
  • This is a blow to FOSS, anti-copyright and anti-paten movement. Implicit in this examption is that the other kind of activities are not exampt. (or maybe it's not all that implicit after all, but I am not a lawyer...) Also, if they are beginning to exampt this and that group of people for various reason, where they will stop? This area of law is relatively young and not all things has been sorted out yet, and introducing these sort of complication at this point in time seems not in the best interest of
  • DeCss now legal? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thue (121682) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:59AM (#16963072) Homepage
    will let film professors copy snippets from DVDs for educational compilations

    Which you can only do by bypassing the copy protection. Does this make DeCSS [wikipedia.org] legal, and the "no breaking encryption" clause of the DMCA void?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JFMulder (59706)
      Sigh. Read the SUMMARY. These laws allows certain people to break a law that you otherwise can't/shouldn't break. Basically it's saying : we allow this for the greater good. See it as the license to kill for James Bond. He can kill, but you can't.

      In other words, if you are not a teacher, and you are not going to be showing this in a school, this law does NOTHING for you.
  • Don't understand (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JohnFluxx (413620) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @07:03AM (#16963088)
    Hi all,

        I don't really follow the bit about being allowed to copy snippets from a DVD. How exactly are you allowed to do that legally? Does that mean it's okay to use DeCSS for such a purpose? Can decss now be legally shipped with distros "for the express purpose of only copying snippets" ?

        If cracking a DVD is still illegal, then does is this kinda like the right for a man to bear children. We can't actually do it, but we now have the right :) ?
  • In Soviet Russia... (Score:4, Informative)

    by monktus (742861) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @07:15AM (#16963134)
    ...or actually the rest of the world, it's generally neither illegal or impractical to unlock a mobile for use on any network. AFAIK, the only UK networks who still SIM lock their phones are Orange and T-Mobile (and maybe 3, I forget), and you can get most phones unlocked for about a tenner.

    I did so recently with an old SonyEricsson from T-Mobile when I discovered that my Orange Windows Mobile powered PDA was useless as a phone.

    The mobile market in the US seems a bit peculiar generally.
  • No payola? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by squarooticus (5092) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @07:23AM (#16963168) Homepage
    I guess the cell phone companies didn't get their checks in to their congresscritters' campaigns in time.
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @08:58AM (#16963540) Homepage Journal
    Okay, I knew I had slept long...but I didn't think it would be April Fools Day, yet. They're actually _decriminalizing_ limited circumvention of draconian DRM? What a joke!
  • Cellphone locking (Score:4, Informative)

    by jonwil (467024) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @09:39AM (#16963740)
    There are 2 kinds of cellphone locking, there is the locks that prevent you using any other network and there are the locks that disable features such as the abillity to load MP3 files directly from a PC for use as ringtones or the abillity to read camera pictures back from the phone without going through per-pay services (Verizon mobile is notorious for this kind of locking crap). It would appear as though this copyright office ruling only covers the first kind (network locks) and not the second kind (feature locks).

  • by swillden (191260) * <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @11:12AM (#16964260) Homepage Journal

    Yes, all of these explicitly-authorized activities arguably fall in the domain of fair use, and should have been allowed to begin with, and most of the exceptions seem like they don't directly affect most people, but they create a huge crack in the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions.

    See, the big problem for consumers isn't so much that the DMCA outlaws circumvention, but that it outlaws circumvention *tools*. If you read the text of the law, it actually doesn't prevent you from circumventing copy protection (because it specifically allows Fair Use). What it does is prevent you from creating or distributing anti-circumvention tools.

    But with these explicit exceptions in place, the tools needed to achieve the allowed circumvention become legal. It's possible, for example, that allowing DVDs to be ripped for educational purposes makes libdvdcss legal, because it now has a legal use. And if you can legally acquire a copy of the tool needed to break DVD encryption, you can then legally exercise your full Fair Use rights.

  • by Andy_R (114137) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @11:16AM (#16964290) Homepage Journal
    This story seems to indicate that a librarian has the power to write or alter laws. None of the Americans posting seem to think this is in any way odd or inappropriate, but I'm sitting here in Britain thinking 'wtf?'

    I'm used to the US governing system being a bit impenetrable (Gore getting more votes than Bush but still losing, for example) but this one really is rather perplexing to an outsider, could anyone explain what's going on here?
  • by BroadbandBradley (237267) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @11:42AM (#16964452) Homepage
    Like not being able to use an MP3 file as a ringtone unless it was purchased through the provider even though the actual hardware supports it? Or, sending and receiving files over bluetooth? I had 2 Nokia 6620 phones on Cingular that let me send and recieve files and set MP3 ringtones, one phone broke and had to be replaced under warranty. The new phone had a newer firmware and no longer could I used MP3's as ringtones. well I raise hell and got another replacement, same problem, raised hell again and finally got another phone with the older firmware that restored the functions that was the reason I spent extra money for that model in the first place. I got another phone added to my plan for a family member, a Motorola razor. Although the razor has bluetooth, you cannot recieve files over bluetooth presumable because they'd rather have you get your music for $2.99 a pop and have it expire after 90 days.
    When my 6620 got lost, instead of getting another phone from my provider, I went to http://www.celluloco.com/ [celluloco.com] and purchased an unlocked Motorola A780 [celluloco.com] that let me do all the bluetooth mp3 ringing goodness that I wanted. It was a little harder to setup as Cingular doesn't support that model and settings won't automagically download from the network, but I was able to get network settings and voicemail number from tech suppport and it works fine now.

    How about others here? what carrier and what features does your phone have turned off?

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