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Cellphones Your Rights Online Technology

We Should Be Allowed To Unlock Everything We Own 317

An anonymous reader writes "When cell phone unlocking became illegal last month, it set off a firestorm of debate over what rights people should have for phones they have legally purchased. But this is really just one facet of a much larger problem with property rights in general. 'Silicon permeates and powers almost everything we own. This is a property rights issue, and current copyright law gets it backwards, turning regular people — like students, researchers, and small business owners — into criminals. Fortune 500 telecom manufacturer Avaya, for example, is known for suing service companies, accusing them of violating copyright for simply using a password to log in to their phone systems. That's right: typing in a password is considered "reproducing copyrighted material." Manufacturers have systematically used copyright in this manner over the past 20 years to limit our access to information. Technology has moved too fast for copyright laws to keep pace, so corporations have been exploiting the lag to create information monopolies at our expense and for their profit. After years of extensions and so-called improvements, copyright has turned Mickey Mouse into a monster who can never die.' We need to win the fight for unlocking phones, and then keep pushing until we actually own the objects we own again."
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We Should Be Allowed To Unlock Everything We Own

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  • AMEN! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maliqua ( 1316471 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:44PM (#43204235)
    thats right brother yell it in the streets spread the good word
  • Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:47PM (#43204255) Journal

    Our property is our property, and we should be able to do with it as we please. Further, breaking encryption is just math. Prohibitions on any sort of math amounts to thought crime. They want to make it illegal to figure things out.

    The standard excuse for all this bad policy is that without DRM, our music, movies, and video gaming industries would collapse. I say, let them. It's just entertainment, which is a surprisingly small part of the economy (Google could buy the RIAA outright easily). Much better to let that happen than to enshrine bad policy as law for decades to come. And I'm willing to bet that people will find ways to entertain themselves anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:47PM (#43204261)

    >We Should Be Allowed To Unlock Everything We Own
    I think there is a misconception here: You only own everything you are able to unlock.
    If you can't do that, you don't "own" it, you're "owned".

  • by Keruo ( 771880 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @12:55PM (#43204355)
    Can someone explain to me what the fuss is about unlocking?
    If I understand it right, you are not allowed to unlock a phone which you are buying with monthly contract.
    Well, makes sense to me, you haven't paid the device fully, it's not yours to hack.
    Once you've paid the (24 month?) contract you're free to do what you want with the device.
    If you don't like those terms why did you even buy the phone with contract rather than directly with cash?
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:00PM (#43204403) Homepage


    Unless there is a contract negotiation, there is no contract.

    Therefore it is a personal property sale. Pretending that personal property is an implied contract is precisely the sort of NONSENSE that this article is complaining about. It's just a way for powerful corporations to subvert your property rights and abuse all of us.

    It's high time that citizens started pushing back.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:00PM (#43204405) Homepage

    Exactly. I can take the dozens of CDs that I own, rip them into MP3 format, and put them on a large hard drive on a network in my house in such a way that my kids could easily select which song they want to listen to. Penalty for doing this? Nothing. It's fair use.

    However, if I take the dozens of DVDs that I own, rip them and put them on a large hard drive on a network in my house in such a way that my kids could easily select which movie they want to watch, I could (theoretically) be sued for thousands of dollars (if not more). I could find myself bankrupt over it.

    Note that in neither example did I put the ripped CDs or DVDs on the Internet or give them to anyone else. Neither did I borrow CDs/DVDs (from Netflix, the Library, a friend, etc) and rip them. I legally own a CD and a DVD. I bought them from a store with my own money. Why can I copy one set of those bits to a format/medium that works better for me but not another set? Especially because ripping DVDs to a hard drive in this purely theoretical manner would make owning DVDs a lot more desirable (because it would be easier to watch them) and thus would lead to more DVD purchases.

  • Re:Yes and no. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:00PM (#43204409)

    That's what the contract break fee is for, to pay that back. The customer owns the phone at all points along there, if they didn't, then the carier would have to pay to replace it if it broke. The customer owns the phone, they're just financing it via a non-optional rider to their plan.

  • Re:Agreed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:01PM (#43204421)

    Just some thoughts:

    1) how does an organization mitigate its liability for subsequent services needed to pull users out of a drink that unlocked their stuff, changed something critical, and bricked the unit? Not all people are responsible with settings..... the unwitting, children, etc.

    2) if we take ownership, do we also take responsibility for subsequent access? What happens if charges are incurred through the use of an unprotected device, say, a smartphone that gets hijacked and gets a texting malware that runs up charges? What of those charges?

    3) can we then sell a device that's unlocked, and be free from subsequent liability incurred by the purchaser? What if they hurt themselves?

    I'm not so sure these things are clear, and if people are willing to have the keys. Me, I rooted my phone, and find platforms that aren't open and transportable to be not my choosing. But I can take responsibility, and I'm not sure there's a cultural or legal standard that changes culpability so easily.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:01PM (#43204431)

    That's sort of the point, though, isn't it? An EULA that governs a service is one thing, but an EULA that governs a physical product is something else entirely. A manufacturer exercising ownership rights over a piece of hardware that you have purchased outright, to which said manufacturer holds no obligation beyond addressing manufacturing defects, is patently (heh) absurd. That we're even having this discussion is a testament to the sad state of affairs in which we currently find our copyright/patent laws.

  • by tuppe666 ( 904118 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:02PM (#43204445)

    Seriously Boycott Apple and Microsoft, that are locking hardware. Its not hard to support companies that have open hardware. The fact that your xbox, and iDevices are locked down is only part of the problem...and soon your general purpose computer.

    I'm sorry your favourite abusive mega corporation wants to lock you into their self styled ecosystem. Its easy to walk away...I did.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jonsmirl ( 114798 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:05PM (#43204483) Homepage

    Limit this 'obviously' to consumer goods. There are whole classes of embedded items that should not be unlocked - medical devices, utility meters, safety systems, casino games, ATMs, airplane navigation systems........ Anything that a third party is being held liable for it accuracy. You can't have it both ways - third party liability and unlocked devices.

  • by An dochasac ( 591582 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:07PM (#43204535)
    I'd vote for truth in advertising laws making it very clear that much of what you "buy" you don't really own. When consumers are treated as criminals and not trusted the use of the products they"buy", call it what it is, rental. So you don't own your Wii, Xbox, Playstation or any of your video games, Blue Ray disks (can't play them overseas), iTunes downloads, Android apps, iPhone apps, your car, your TV, your Windows 8 laptop, your printer. And you certainly don't own your iPhone, iPad, iPod, Macbook or any other Apple products.

    Now that Joe sixpack has happy bent over and submitted to this state of affairs, corporate giants are free to expand this subscription model to everything from your refrigerator to your clothing. And if you're a citizen of the US, your tax dollars are paying for FBI and other law enforcement agencies against the likes of you. As Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan put it, "We have billionaires to protect!"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:19PM (#43204671)

    There's nothing 'obviously' about this. It's not a grey area. Either you limit everything or you limit nothing.

    Medical devices, utility meters, safety systems, casino games, ATMs, airplane navigation systems should all be secured, by the hardware, in such a way that NOBODY can unlock them once they leave the manufacturer's hands. Pretending that some copyright law will protect these devices does nothing more than feed homeless lawyers.

  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <> on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:19PM (#43204683) Homepage
    Of course they should be possible to unlock. Maybe a tamper proof seal on them while they're in service but eventually they'll be on the scrapheap somewhere. The embedded system might be useful to someone and we shouldn't waste good chips for legal reasons
  • Re:Obviously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interval1066 ( 668936 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:24PM (#43204735) Homepage Journal

    There are whole classes of embedded items that should not be unlocked...

    Why? If I buy a medical device or a utilty meter, its mine, I own it, why shouldn't I be able to open it? I think you're mistaking regulated service providers with consumer markets. For example, if I buy a casino game there's no reason in the world I shouldn't be able to open it and modify the hell out of it. If I were to try to install it in a public place to actually make money off of it, modified or not, I'm going to get stopped in my tracks. Gambling is regulated by each state, you can't just set up a gambling machine and go to business. Same thing with all the other devices you mentioned. If your not a state licensed provider of the service connected to the device in question, all the pristine, above board, fully functioning devices in the world aren't going to do you any good.

  • by Vario ( 120611 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @01:25PM (#43204743)

    Especially sensitive devices such as medical and safety relevant devices should not be a black box where it is illegal to look into the inner workings. While third-party liability is nice this is still just based on trust and not on tests. My trust into these system would increase quite a bit if a hacker plays around with a utility meter and finds no obvious vulnerability.

    I want all my devices unlocked, the liability can be linked to a tamperproof soft/hardware seal as it is already done today. This is fine with me, I do not expect the manufacturer to be liable if I took it apart, hacked it and reassembled it but I do not see any advantage in making hacking illegal.

  • Re:AMEN! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SpaceMonkies ( 2868125 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @02:00PM (#43205223)
    You OWN your home, even though its mortgaged. You are not leasing it. You are not renting it. It is yours to do with ANYTHING you please. The bank has a lien on your home if your are mortgaged. They do not own it, nor can they tell you in any way what to do with it. You can sell it for any price you wish or burn it down, but before the government will grant the deed to someone else, they must verify the lien has been removed. Likewise, when I purchase a phone + contract, I own the phone immediately. The phone company counts it as an immediate sell on their books and all other accounting, which is why you pay taxes for it immediately rather than over time. The sell of the phone is complete at that time in every legal way that matters. Its not a lease, its a sale. If it was a lease, you would be required to buy it at the end of your contract ... that is a LEGAL requirement for leases, they can't automatically be 'given' at the end. The purchase price can be one dollar (which you'll find on all sorts of deals, Lease at XXX amount, buyout for $1, great corp accounting cheat ;), but a new transaction must take place for the lease to become a sell. They aren't doing that, again making it clear the sale happens at the start of the contract. If I were renting or leasing, the price of my monthly bill would go down when I stopped leasing or renting, like if I bought a unlocked, no contract phone. But it doesn't. My bill remains the same regardless of where my phone comes from. Again, it can't be a lease or rental if there is no transaction and length of terms. They have structured it as a sell in every way for their accounting purposes, but they want to pretend its not, again for their own financial interests (keeping you tied in to their service). As far as 'defaulting', they are not the legal framework designed to deal with that situation. They are not supposed to be enforcers either. They have early termination charges attached as an agreed on termination cost. Not allowing your phone to not work on another provider ISN'T IN THE CONTRACT AT ALL, so its not something you agreed on ever. If I pay $600 cash in $100 bills to Joe Smith who happens to own an unlocked iPhone on the street corner, the phone company treats me the same in EVERY SINGLE WAY as the guy who gets a contracted iPhone. So you get treated like you bought it ... again, they treat it as a sell for their benefit. Only when it may benefit you is it suddenly not a sale to you but some other rental term bullshit they made up.
  • Re:Obviously (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jonsmirl ( 114798 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @02:56PM (#43206003) Homepage

    Should the owner of the casino gaming machines, ATM, utility meters be able to tamper with the devices after their accuracy has been verified by the manufacturer? Should the owner of a gas station have easy access to the software on his pumps so that he can modify the accuracy of metering with a button on his iPhone? How are you as a consumer ever going to detect that this is going on?

    Just because some entity owns a devices doesn't mean that society wants them tampering with it. There are a lot of measuring devices owned by entities that have a large incentive to tamper with their proper functioning. Locking the software does a great deal to stop these owners from tampering with the devices.

    If you make the rules such that everything you own has to be unlockable, you're just going to get big piles of EULA's saying that you don't really own the device instead you are indefinitely renting the use of it.

  • Re:AMEN! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by UltraZelda64 ( 2309504 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @02:58PM (#43206047)

    I don't know about you, but it seems more like I live in the Land of the Fucking Owned. A land owned by fucking assholes, totalitarian politicians, selfish and infinitely greedy (and incredibly crooked) multi-national corporations, and foreign laws like the recent cell phone unlocking, which was conveniently signed away from American citizens, giving foreign countries the 'right' to dictate what we can and cannot do.

    Why doesn't the U.S. just fully sell themselves out? It seems like they desperately want to. Most goods are already produced and/or manufactured in China. Most support calls to American companies already connect you to people from India or some other cheap country, who not only can't even speak or understand English worth shit, they don't seem to know a fucking thing about the question at hand.

    The U.S. is excellent at outsourcing, incarceration, taking money, and generally just fucking over its citizens. Too bad those are not really the kinds of things you would want your home country to excel at.

  • Re:AMEN! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dynedain ( 141758 ) <slashdot2@anthon ... m ['in.' in gap]> on Monday March 18, 2013 @03:51PM (#43206681) Homepage

    Even if there is no mortgage on your house, you still don't own it but are only permitted to live there if you pay your property tax on time. Therefore you don't really own it, but rent it from the state.

    What a stupid argument. By that logic, I don't really "own" the salary I make because the government only permits me to have it if I pay my income taxes on time.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva