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Monday, 28 January 2013 12:10

Corporate Bondage of Smartphone Users Legalized

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT                    smartphone Law gets dumb about smartphones

 

The Atlantic provides more evidence that the government is more interested in granting corporations monopolies than having them compete in a vibrant free market.

How so?

 

According to the Atlantic article headline, "It Is Now a Crime to Unlock Your Smartphone." That's right, as of Saturday, your smartphone cannot be switched by you to another carrier. In fact it will be a felony, with a huge potential jail sentence and possible humongous finea. As the Atlantic laments, "These laws serve to protect the interests of a few companies and create and maintain barriers to entry."

 

Indeed they do. In this case, for regulatory reasons derived from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), this legal obstruction of the theoretical free market and potential punishment of individual consumers is being instigated by the Library of Congress, of all places:

 

Until recently it was illegal to jailbreak your own iPhone, and after Saturday it will be illegal to unlock a new smartphone, thereby allowing it to switch carriers. This is a result of the exception to the DMCA lapsing. It was not a mistake, but rather an intentional choice by the Librarian of Congress, that this was no longer fair use and acceptable. The Electronic Frontier Foundation among other groups has detailed the many failings of the DMCA Triennial Rulemaking process, which in this case led to this exception lapsing.

 

The intrusion of the mega-corporations into fixing the rules to prevent competition and consumer choice should have, as the Atlantic notes, Republicans in an uproar – but Capitol Hill Republicans (as is the case with many Dems on the Hill) are not really pro-free market; they are pro monopolizing corporations.

 

Democracy cannot flourish without economic democracy. If a group of corporations that have crossed a threshold into being like their Wall Street counterparts, too big to be denied assistance in fixing markets and stifling competition, then democracy as a political force is diminished; it runs the danger of becoming an extension of a marketplace that protects the virtual economic monopolies.

 

It will probably get worse, as the Atlantic points out: "And if you thought this was bad, provisions of the DMCA relating to anti-circumvention are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Treaty -- and the United States is the party asking for it as part of the negotiations."

 

We are dumb if we continue to allow corporations to have the power to ensure such regulations as prohibiting the consumer unlocking of smart phone.

 

It is one of the ironies of rapidly advancing technology that the acceleration of its privatization runs the risk of leaving us as cyber pawns for profit.

(Photo: IntelFreePress)