2010-07-27

FOLLOW-UP: Truly Competitive Cell Phone Markets

The US government has had an unprecedented bout of sensibility (Joelle Tessler, Associated Press via Yahoo! News) of late. It covers quite a few areas, so I'll try to go through each point one-by-one. In general, the new statement says that breaking technological locks on devices is not in itself illegal unless provable copyright infringement is committed.
The biggest news is that anyone can unlock their cell phone to work with any service provider or to use any application developed for that phone. The phone most affected by this news is, of course, the iPhone (which has thus far been locked to AT&T and can only run apps approved by Apple).
Now, anyone can run any app they want and use it on any network (supported by the hardware) that they want. Prior to this, Apple claimed that under the provisions of the DMCA, jailbreaking iPhones and iPod Touches is illegal (and they threatened to sue jailbreakers). Now, this can't happen (unless, of course, the third-party apps are guilty of copyright infringement).
The reason why I made this a follow-up post to this post is because although phones are not likely to be sold unlocked from the start, users now have the choice of moving their phone to any carrier (provided the phone's hardware supports calls on that carrier). Now, cell phone markets can be more competitive (though the situation isn't quite ideal yet).
Along with the new rules regarding cell phones, people can now break controls on video games to patch security issues. This is almost an open-sourcing of video games, which is great (though this circumvention of technical restrictions is pretty specific).
People can break locks on DVDs and use clips from these DVDs "for educational purposes, criticism or commentary." This is a huge victory for fair use; that really is what fair use is about. This could also mean that the arrest of a European cryptography professor for breaking, analyzing, and publicizing some encryption scheme at a conference will never happen again. Also, people can now make their own videos with clips from movies without fear of being sued for copyright infringement (or so I hope).
Finally, blind people can break locks on e-books to use them with any text-to-speech software. This is a huge step forward, as I have reported in the past cases of publishing houses refusing to release books in formats friendly to blind people for fear of "potential copyright infringement".
Could this be true? Could we actually have a government that cares more about the rights of ordinary citizens than about the "rights" of vested interests? WOW!

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