The Copyright Office recently held its triennial hearings on exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's prohibition on circumventing technical protection measures for copyrighted works. The Office is charged under the DMCA with issuing exemptions for specific classes of works where non-infringing uses will be adversely affected by the prohibition. For most of the classes of works under consideration this year, it seems the Copyright Office would be in familiar territory, focusing on users' ability to read, view, listen, or interact with creative works. However, with one class – cell phone unlocking – the questions raised seem more at home in telecommunications and network neutrality policy than copyright policy.
The Office is reconsidering an exemption it granted in 2006 that protected individuals from liability for breaking a firmware lock on a cell phone in order to use the phone on another phone network. At that time, no one opposed the exemption in time for their objections to be considered; this time, CTIA - The Wireless Association, Virgin Mobile, and others have voiced opposition, in part because of copyright-related concerns, but primarily to preserve a business model built around recouping hardware subsidies that some argue limits consumer choice.
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