3 Count: Unlock Me

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1: Bill Would Let Consumers “Unlock” Mobile Phones

First off today, Dave Johnson at CBS News reports that a new bill has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, thus landing it on President Obama’s desk, that would temporarily legalize the unlocking of cell phones for the purpose of moving them to another network.

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the circumvention of Digital Rights Management (DRM) locks is illegal unless specifically exempted by the Librarian of Congress. In the previous cycle, the unlocking of phones was exempted but when the most recent re-evaluation came around, the Librarian of Congress refused to renew that exemption, making it illegal again and prompting petitions from angry users.

Congress took action and fast tracked legislation to undo that change. However, the new law simply re-exempts cell phone unlocking under the law but doesn’t rewrite the DMCA in any way. This means, theoretically, in three years the Librarian of Congress could decline to renew the exemption and make it unlawful again, even though the law does state the intent of Congress very clearly and further asks the Librarian to examine similar devices, such as tablets and laptops.

2: Cops Start Replacing Adverts on Pirate Sites with Copyright Warnings

Next up today, Jo Best at ZDNet reports that The City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) announced yesterday that it will begin taking over advertisements on pirate web sites and displaying banners that will warn the user the site is under criminal investigation and that they should go elsewhere.

The ads will be shown to visitors in the United Kingdom after the site has received and ignored warnings from PIPCU encouraging the site to cease its infringing behavior.

The PIPCU campaign will supplement other activities the group is known for, including trying to get pirate sites domains suspended by contacting registrars and adding sites to Infringing Website List that advertisers can blacklist.

3: Record Industry Targets General Motors, Ford Over Music-Copying Vehicles

Finally today, the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies (AARC), a royalty collection service, has filed a lawsuit against General Motors and Ford, along with various suppliers, over what it believes are unpaid royalties for music-copying devices included in recent cars.

The AARC was establish to collect and distribute royalties from the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act, which required manufacturers of digital audio recording devices (DARDs) to pay a royalty between $1 and $12 per device in exchange for not being sued for potential infringing uses. However, after it was ruled that most MP3 players didn’t qualify as DARDs, royalties dwindled to less than $750,000 per year.

However, the AARC claims that Ford and GM have produced cars with DARDs built into to them. These vehicles take CDs from the user and copy the songs to an internal hard drive for later playback, storing up to 2,000 songs. Since the key function of the system, according to the AARC, is to copy music, it doesn’t qualify for the exemptions that protected MP3 players and that both Ford and GM owe the royalties under the law.


That’s it for the three count today. We will be back tomorrow with three more copyright links. If you have a link that you want to suggest a link for the column or have any proposals to make it better. Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I hope to hear from you.

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