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Cell Phone Owners Allowed To Break Software Locks 305

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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  • 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.
  • Read or Die? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:34AM (#16962760)
    When you buy a mobile phone subscription with a locked-down handset bundled, you get the hardware at vastly reduced price and you undersign to stay with that carrier for N years. No matter what the Library says, if you hack the phone and use it with other carrier before N years expire, you owe the subsidy money back to the original telco. They funded you from their private property and you broke the contract. Private property is sancto-sanct or America is no more.

    Without the cheap locked-down handset bundle, mobile telephony market could never take off in the first place, since handsets were truly expensive. I think Europe is smarter than USA and will not destroy the lock-down supported expansion of mobile telephony. Europe and its GSM system is much ahead of americans in mobile communications and cannot alow it to collapse.

    Otherwise, I thought USA is governed by President, Representatives and Senate. The only Library that had government power was in the japanese anime "Read or Die" and that was the British Library. Who is a library to decide what can be hacked? That is a matter of legislation, reserved for the authority of elected officials only.
  • Re:Technicalities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:42AM (#16962792) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • Smart phones? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by minusX ( 967653 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (Xsunim)> on Thursday November 23, 2006 @05:50AM (#16962824) Journal
    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).
  • Examples? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:01AM (#16962866)
    I'm here in China, and they busted my phone out from under Cingular in about 30 seconds. It's a newish RAZR (V3)... what phones are un-unlockable, and what's the difference between hacking the OS on a phone and a computer? Do cellphones have hardware restrictions on their usage?
  • Re:Read or Die? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:04AM (#16962870)
    > In the UK unlocking has not damaged the industry at all

    Maybe in Britain it does not hurt. But in the rest of Europe, especially to the east, where people are not that rich, most mobile phones are running on pre-paid scheme instead of monthly subscription.

    You pay once to have a phone number assigned to you and get a SIM-locked handset (for cheap due to big subsidy from the telco) but if you actually want to talk on it, you have to buy creditcard sized vouchers with a taped over code. Remove the tape, type the long keycode into the handset and send it in SMS short message to a service number. The voucher is invalidated and your SIM card is credited with the amount of money or talktime.

    So if you decode the phone and then move to another telco, the original telco who subsidized you, obviously will not get any of his money back via services. This is why unauthorized decoding is a crime and harshly prosecuted. The gov't knows that mobile telecomms development is crucial for any modern economy, so the fair business interests of telcos must be protected because installing a nationwide mobile comm network cost them billions in funds and telcos are not charities!

    It is true that telco must decode if you ask - after you paid them the flat fee, about 100 USD (20,000HUF in local currency). Without that it is a crime.
  • by mr_matticus ( 928346 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @06:48AM (#16963028)
    Don't be ridiculous. DRM and the expiration of copyright are irrelevant to each other. This is the worst (and most popular) form of FUD with regard to DRM. When copyrights expire, there are any number of avenues for you to leave behind your DRMed file.

    Most importantly, in 50 or 60 years when the copyrights actually expire, will you still even want your 128kbps mp3? Of course not. The public domain file will be provided in a superior format from a master recording.

    Moreover, there's no fundamental reason why future DRM can't include a system which automatically disables DRM upon copyright expiration. But of course, any system which checks the validity of DRM licenses would be attacked as an invasion of "privacy."
  • 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 :) ?
  • Re:Technicalities (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @07:11AM (#16963118)
    Yes, this is the usual practice in the UK. In Belgium the practice (and law) is that all phones sell at full price and are unlocked.
    And in Luxembourg you have the choice. Either pay full price, and have free choice of provider, or subscribe with shop's affiliated provider, and pay less (... and have to stay for a set amount of time with a plan with non-zero monthly due).

    If you actually use your phone for a non-trivial amount and switch back to a zero-monthly-due plan as soon as possible, you'll usually come out ahead taking the plan.

    AFAIK, there are no technical locks, only contractual obligations (i.e. you can actually switch to another provider; but if you do, you still need to pay the monthly due to the provider that you don't use).

  • Re:Read or Die? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MickDownUnder ( 627418 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @07:39AM (#16963222)
    You guys are totally off the track, they're not talking about SIM locks. They're talking about software locks, which is the ability to install software on your phone that for example allows you to play mp3's or view divx videos which are not DRM protected. Not whether you can get a cheap phone on a contract then break the contract and go to another carrier with cheaper call rates, that has nothing to do with this at all.

    I have some experience developing applications for Microsoft Windows mobile smartphones. They have always allowed vendors to choose what level the OS is locked down. By default the Windows Mobile OS is not locked down, which is something I must commend Microsoft for, however vendors of mobile phones can choose to change this such that the Windows Mobile OS is either totally locked down i.e. doesn't allow any 3rd party applications to be installed or run, or locked in such a way that the user is prompted to verify software should be run that has not authorised by the mobile phone vendor.

    This is a discussion about whether or not small DEVELOPERS can get into developing applications for the mobile market or whether it is going to be left to the big players to decide what software we're allowed to have on our handsets.

    As mobile phones become increasingly more like mobile pcs, this is a big issue. If the day comes when this is the platform on the market, and XP, Linux and all other desktop flavours of operating systems are history, which is actually quite a likely scenario, then how locked down a system is to 3rd party developers becomes a major issue for personal liberty and freedom of choice. If we cannot choose what software we can develop and run on our computers we have lost our ability to communicate freely.

    Basically I simply don't think any locked down system is going to prevail simply because the market will ultimately reject it in favour of who ever supplies a system that is not locked down. In terms of features no locked down system is going to compete with another that allows any developer in the world to create new applications for it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @07:52AM (#16963272)
    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.
  • 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?
  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @09:01AM (#16963552) Homepage Journal
    ``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.
  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @09:18AM (#16963642) Homepage Journal
    ``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 Good Thing. Remember, copyleft is about using copyright to ensure user's rights and freedoms. If you take away copyright, the GPL and LGPL (and similar licenses) will lose their force, and this could very well lead to companies (and other parties) distributing binary blobs based on what used to be Free software, without contributing back their improvements to the community. This could be a major setback for Free software.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @09:29AM (#16963686)
    Why do they need a law forcing consumers to use clay tablets when all digital content can be used on a device smaller than your hand?

    CDs and DVDs are the past, and forget the blue ray junk too - Seagate is about to make blue ray look like a 8" floppy disk.

    If you pay for 1 copy of it, you should be able to do what you need to do to view it.
    Copy to an iPod, dvx encode it for your portable video player, take that downloaded iTunes Pirate movie and burn it to a DVD so you can actually watch it on the big screen TV (though it will look awful on a 60" screen, now you know why you need to buy the HDTV DVD player and up-converter...)

    Content producers should just find a way to make buying content more desirable & affordable (how about $9.99 instead of 19.99?).

    CD's with paper booklets or DVDs with special casings and non-digital extras are a good start.

    Remember the little statues packaged with Lord of the Rings DVDs? That 'freebee' was a toy surprise to get you to buy the happy meal, and it worked.

    The no-talent business types once again should turn to the creative people to save their butts.
    Such little 'extras' usually cost under $1 but can increase sales ten fold.

    Booklets, Collector Packaging, and Limited Edition collectable extras toys, statuettes, posters, coupons, special offers, club memberships. - All great things to increase profit margin, none of which involve expensive recalls of computer harming Sony Root Kit CDs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 23, 2006 @11:01AM (#16964186)
    And I hate that we are not allowed to give out lock codes. This doesn't stop me. If someone can tell me how I can use this as an excuse to get around company policy if caught, someone please tell me how. Mods, mod this up. I know I am not the only one.
  • 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 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 [] and purchased an unlocked Motorola A780 [] 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?

  • by Khoa ( 935586 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @12:10PM (#16964700) Homepage
    Really? I thought your heart stops during the fall. It can't take the epinephrine produced during the realization of you, well... dying. So it just quits. So people die before impact.
  • Only 3 years! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Rhipf ( 525263 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @12:20PM (#16964790)
    I find it rather funny that these new exemptions are going to be effective for only 3 years when the length of a copyright is 90+ years.
  • by sponga ( 739683 ) on Thursday November 23, 2006 @12:36PM (#16964918)
    Go into the T-mobile store and they will most likely unlock it for you; although I am in the U.S..

    I had the same problem with my Nokia with T-mobile where I could not run any applications(google) on the phone or browse correctly; they set it and now everything works.
  • I thought your heart stops during the fall.

    A popular myth, but not true, as shown by survivors of extraordinary falls.

    One woman survived a fall from 10 kilometers []. (She was strapped into a seat and may have enjoyed some protection from that; however this guy [] jumped out of a plane at 18,000 feet, about 5.5 kilometers, and thanks to trees and snow cushioning his fall, suffered on a sprained leg.)

    Ginsberg's Howl notes the story of Tuli Kupferberg [] (of the band The Fugs) who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and survived.

What is research but a blind date with knowledge? -- Will Harvey