Wait, It’s a Crime to Unlock Smartphones in America?

SmartphoneBy decree of the Librarian of Congress, Americans are henceforth ordered not to unlock their own smartphones to make them available on other carriers. The law was put on the table two years ago and has since caused massive uproar, especially to the pro-choice crowd.

The penalty of this federal crime includes a $500,000 fine for first-time offenders, imprisonment of up to five years, or both. Repeat offenders are at risk of facing $1,000,000 in fines, ten years in prison, or both.

Criminal defense attorneys in Springfield and other cities across all states are all sitting up. This “ridiculous law”, as one article points out, could implicate the average American in a crime subject to up to a $500,000 fine and up to five years in prison just because they unlocked their own phone — their own property.

An Orwellian Power

Hold up just a second, though; who owns your phone? You might have to check it, because, although you do, under all obvious monetary and practical reasons, own your phone – technically, you and all your properties are still under each and every law passed by the State Congress.

Except, the Congress didn’t pass this law — at least not technically. In 1998, they passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which outlawed technologies that bypass copyright protections. It sounds great, but in all practicality, affects consumers and new innovations negatively.

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Then, the Librarian of Congress (LOC) comes into picture, since they issue exemptions from the law. The same authority recently passed law on unlocking smartphones as a result of the exception to the DMCA lapsing. The LOC made the intentional choice that this was no longer fair use and acceptable.

And so it is, as per the power of LOC, a collective of unelected bureaucrats. Apart from deciding what technological choices you can make with your smartphones, these unelected bureaucrats can also apparently decide upon regulations, which could have financial consequences for businesses.

But that’s another story altogether.

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