The cell phone business has really been rocking the boat the last couple of years. We already had the battle between consumers and carriers over unlimited data. Now, cell phone carriers are poised to take things to the next level. They have succeeded in getting the government to concur that jailbreaking/unlocking your smartphone or tablet is illegal without permission from the wireless provider. It was always frowned upon, but on January 26, 2013, it actually becomes a crime. So, in recap, you purchase a device from a company and then they have the right to prosecute you over the way that you use it.
It all started with a little something called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Basically, the government has decided that the technology of smartphones and tablets has a copyright that follows said technology digitally. It’s a lot like purchasing a music file on iTunes or another service. You don’t actually purchase a physical product. You purchase the rights to play that song on your various devices. You don’t own the song, and you don’t have the right to change it in any meaningful way. Now, smartphones and tablets purchased from wireless providers fall under the same category.
So, even though you physically own the device, an iPhone or whatever, you don’t really own it. You actually paid for the right to use it. As is. The way the manufacturer intended. You do not have the right to alter it for your own purposes, because you don’t physically own it as much as you mentally own it. That’s what this insane law has put in place, and now with it fully going into effect, it probably won’t be long before the pricks at Apple actually try to have someone locked up for jailbreaking their iPhone.
With music files and videos, the DMCA makes a lot more sense. After all, I think we all understand that we don’t own the song. We’re not going to be able to treat it like our own and play it and expect to be compensated for it. We simply want to listen to it for entertainment and are willing to pay our hard-earned dollars to be given that right. It doesn’t exist in a physical form, and we can download it at will on any of our various methods for playing music because we own the right to do so. But with something like a smartphone or tablet, it seems way too much of a physical item to be told that we don’t really own the right to do with it as we will. Think about it. You can edit your smartphone. You can install your own background, play your own ringtones. Will all of these things soon be illegal as well?
What’s next? Houses. You can’t change the color scheme in your own home, without permission from the bank. Want to knock out a wall in your own home? No way, man. Not unless the government thinks it’s okay. This is just another example of them legislating rules for things that have nothing to do with any real public purpose except to help those that make them. The real reason that wireless providers want this to happen is so they can prevent their devices from being used on other networks. But think about how messed up that is. You buy the phone from say AT&T, satisfy the contract, and still, they want to tell you that you can’t change to another network without buying another phone because it’s now illegal to unlock it. For heavy hitters like Apple, they want these laws because it prevents people from having a way to circumvent the Apple Store. This way, Apple not only gets our money when we buy the devices, but they know if we ever want anything for it, there’s no way we get it without them getting a cut.
Why would the government pass a law that accomplishes nothing except to help the wireless providers and manufacturers?
Hmm… could it be a little thing called lobbying? Donations?