Green day

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Mark it on your calendar: Nov. 27, 2006, the day a Colorado cellphone recycling outfit accomplished what high-powered lawyers could not and chiseled a chink in the armor of the mobile-phone industry’s cherished business model.
The Library of Congress’ decision that unlocking mobile phones does not violate U.S. copyright law was all about keeping America beautiful. You heard right. It had nothing to do with any underlying antitrust legal theory like the one used in two unsuccessful federal lawsuits in New York. Other anti-locking handset suits are pending in California.
The inspiration for exempting mobile-phone locking software from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act blossomed from The Wireless Alliance of Boulder, Colo. (not to be confused with perennial troublemaker Wireless Communications Alliance of San Diego.) The Wireless Alliance actually has a cordial relationship with industry. None of that Greenpeace business. Among the cellphone recycler’s partners are Bluegrass Cellular, Midwest Wireless, Xero Mobile and the Rural Cellular Association.
No, the sky’s not apt to fall anytime soon as a result of the Library of Congress un-locking rule. Mobile-phone carriers will continue to sell and consumers will continue to buy heavily subsidized do-everything phones bundled into service contracts today, tomorrow and the next day. And the day after that. And so on.
But what about five or 10 years from now? Is the Library of Congress action an aberration, or is the two-decade-old cellular service-equipment business model out of step with the rest of the digital net-centric world? The mobile-phone industry was quick to point out the ruling does not prevent carriers from continuing to lock phones as they wish. So most probably will. Handset vendors, whose masters (at least in the U.S.) are the mobile-phone carriers, may not be shedding any tears about the out-of-the-blue Library of Congress edict. Indeed, handset vendors from this day forward may come to embrace Nov. 27 as a day of commercial thanksgiving. Not so for wireless trade association CTIA and prepaid kingpin TracFone Wireless, with the ruling coming right as the starting gun sounded for the high-flying holiday buying season.
The U.S. Copyright Office, whose recommendation to exempt mobile-phone locking software from the 1998 copyright statute was accepted by the Library of Congress, cut no slack after both submitted comments late in the proceeding. Indeed, Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters apparently wasn’t in the mood for excuses, or arguably equity.
“While it is preferable that all interested parties make their views known in the rulemaking process, they must do so in compliance with the process that is provided for public comment, or offer a compelling justification for their failure to do so. They have failed to offer such justification,” said Peters. Geez. It makes one feel like a 1st grader who just got read the riot act by the librarian for putting a book back in the wrong place.

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