Lawmakers looking to draft legislation to legalize cellphone unlocking

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Date: Thursday, March 7th, 2013, 06:13
Category: iPhone, Legal, News

This could lead to something interesting.

Per 9to5Mac, following a statement from the White House on Monday confirming it would support “narrow legislative fixes” to make unlocking cellphones legal again, several lawmakers have announced plans to introduce legislation. According to a report from The Hill, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Chair of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights Senator Amy Klobuchar have confirmed they will introduce bills in support of the legalization of cellphone unlocking:

“I intend to work in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion to restore users’ ability to unlock their phones and provide them with the choice and freedom that we have all come to expect in the digital era,” Leahy said in a statement.

The Judiciary Committee, which handles copyright issues, would likely have jurisdiction over any bill to legalize cellphone unlocking.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, said she plans to introduce her own bill this week.

During a recent panel discussion on Capitol Hill, other lawmakers voiced their support for the legislation, including Representatives Darrell Issa and Jared Polis, while The Hill reported the Federal Communication Commissions’ Jessica Rosenworcel “encouraged Congress to re-examine the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”

The decision was made by the Library of Congress in October to make unlocking cellphones illegal, and that policy officially took effect in January. Following the White House’s statement in response to a petition with over 110,000 signatures, the Library of Congress issued a statement and agreed that “the question of locked cell phones has implications for telecommunications policy and that it would benefit from review and resolution in that context.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

White House backs petition for unlocking of phones after contract expires

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Date: Monday, March 4th, 2013, 14:05
Category: iPhone, Legal, News

If you were looking for a bit of positive news today, this might be it.

Per Engadget, a recent ruling that effectively bans third-party phone unlocking has elicited 114,322 electronic signatures to the White House. Now a petition to the White House, which asks that DMCA protection of phone unlockers be reconsidered, has finally received an official response. R. David Edelman, Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation and Privacy, had this to say:

“The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties,” Edelman writes. All told, the response matches that of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which wrote a letter to the Librarian of Congress in support of extending the exemption last year.

Edelman went on to state: “The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.” We’re not going to see immediate change, but it appears that a chain of events is now in motion in which the FCC and Congress potentially play a huge role.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Wireless handset unlocking becomes illegal in U.S. without carrier permission

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Date: Monday, January 28th, 2013, 08:45
Category: iPhone, Legal, wireless

Well, here’s the thing that’ll drive you nuts today.

Per Electronista and TechCrunch, phone unlocking without carrier permission is now illegal in the United States. A 90-day transition period, permitting the practice after an exemption added to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was reversed in October, has now run out. The expiration of the exemption now forces customers to either ask and potentially pay carriers for unlocking services, or to buy phones that have been unlocked beforehand.

The exemption was put in place after a campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 2010. Three exemptions were applied for, including making jailbreaking legal and the renewal of an existing exemption that permitted phone unlocking. In October, the U.S. Copyright Office and the Library of Congress reviewed and then overturned the unlocking exemption, citing the relative ease for consumers to either get an unlocked handset or to unlock a phone through a carrier. A 90-day transition period was then put in place, which has since ran out.

Penalties for unlocking, as outlined by CTIA, range from the carrier’s “actual damages and any additional profits of the violator”, to a court-awarded statutory damages of between US$200 and US$2500 per individual unlock, on the Civil Penalties side. Criminal penalties would see violators fined at most US$500,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, or both, for a first offense, with the values doubled for subsequent offenses.

In light of the unlocking exemption’s closure, a “We The People” petition asking for the Librarian of Congress to rescind the decision or to make unlocking permanently legal, has gathered over 25,000 signatures.

Jailbreaking and rooting of smartphones continues to be legal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, Samsung come to terms over Galaxy S III Mini, remove it from forthcoming patent infringement case claims

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Date: Monday, December 31st, 2012, 08:47
Category: Legal, News

Not that this is going to entirely alleviate the ongoing conflict between the Hatfields and the McCoys, but it’s a small step in the right direction.

Per AppleInsider, a court document filed on Friday revealed that Apple is dropping all claims against Samsung’s Galaxy S III Mini smartphone after the Korean company said it has no plans to formally import and sell the handset in the U.S.

In Apple’s filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, a reply in support of a November motion to amend its claims against Samsung, the company agreed to drop the Galaxy S III Mini from the suit in response to the Galaxy maker’s opposition of adding new products to the upcoming case.

Apple looked to broaden assertions with a proposed Nov. 23 motion which added the Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S III with Android 4.1, Galaxy S III Mini, Rugby Pro, Galaxy Tab 8.9 Wi-Fi and Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 to a suit scheduled to be heard in 2014.

Samsung countered by saying it is not “making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing the Galaxy S III Mini in the United States,” and opposed the inclusion of the Galaxy Tab 8.9, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, and Galaxy Rugby Pro, because “Apple did not serve its claim charts for these products until November 30, after the November 23 date identified by the Court.”

According to Friday’s filing, Apple will not contest the partial opposition and claimed it misunderstood a Nov. 15 court order regarding a limitation on assertions, a stipulation Samsung pointed to in its retort. If the Court agrees with Samsung’s reading of the order, which concludes that all new contentions made after Nov. 23 are invalid, Apple “will of course voluntarily withdraw any infringement contentions” made after that date.

As for the Galaxy S III Mini, Apple noted that the handset can be purchased at retail outlets like Amazon.com’s U.S. storefront, but agreed to withdraw its claims as long as they can be reinstated if the device was to see official sale in America.

The case, which involves the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III flagship smartphones, is set to start hearings on Mar. 31, 2014.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple ordered to pay Samsung’s legal fees, remove “false and misleading” notice of judgment

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Date: Tuesday, November 13th, 2012, 08:59
Category: Legal, News

This feud’s going to continue until even your grandchildren are considering which nursing home to go to…

Per iLounge and Bailii, Apple has been ordered to pay Samsung’s legal fees on an indemnity basis, after being ordered to remove a “false and misleading” notice of judgment it had previously posted on the Apple U.K. website.

The legal decision was rendered due to Apple’s initial website notice in which the company made reference to its “cool” and “far more popular” iPad in comparison to the Galaxy tablet and pointed to other courts’ decisions in Apple’s favor in similar cases.

As noted in the judgment, fees awarded on an indemnity basis are “higher than the normal, ‘standard’ basis” and were awarded “as a mark of the court’s disapproval of a party’s conduct, particularly in relation to its respect for an order of the court. Apple’s conduct warranted such an order.” Further analysis of the removed website notice is included in this most recent decision, stemming from Apple’s appeal loss to Samsung over tablet design infringement.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Revised DMCA allows for unlocking of handsets, other exemptions

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Date: Friday, October 26th, 2012, 07:20
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, Legal, News, Software

There’s exceptions to every rule and some of them get pretty interesting.

Per the cool cats at Ars Technica, the Digital Millennium Copyright makes it illegal to “circumvent” digital rights management schemes. But when Congress passed the DMCA in 1998, it gave the Librarian of Congress the power to grant exemptions. The latest batch of exemptions, which will be in force for three years, were announced on Thursday.

Between now and late 2015, there will be five categories of circumvention that will be allowed under the Librarian’s rules, one fewer than the current batch of exemptions, which was announced in July 2010. The new exemptions take effect October 28.

The new batch of exemptions illustrate the fundamentally arbitrary nature of the DMCA’s exemption process. For the next three years, you’ll be allowed to jailbreak smartphones but not tablet computers. You’ll be able to unlock phones purchased before January 2013 but not phones purchased after that. It will be legal to rip DVDs to use an excerpt in a documentary, but not to play it on your iPad.

The first exemption applies to “literary works, distributed electronically, that are protected by technological measures which either prevent the enabling of read-aloud functionality or interfere with screen readers or other applications or assistive technologies.” The work must have been purchased legitimately through “customary channels,” such that “the rights owner is remunerated.”

A similar version of the exemption was offered in 2010, but that one allowed circumvention only if “all existing e-book editions of the work contain access controls” that inhibit disabled access. Disability groups urged the Librarian to drop this restriction, arguing that “despite the rapid growth of the e-book market, most e-book titles remain inaccessible due to fragmentation within the industry and differing technical standards and accessibility capabilities across platforms.” That meant that the rule effectively required disabled users to own multiple devices—a Kindle, a Nook, and an iPad, for example—in order to gain access to a full range of e-books. The Librarian accepted this argument and allowed circumvention by disabled users even if a work is available in an open format on another platform.

The new rules allow circumvention of “computer programs that enable wireless telephone handsets to execute lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset.” In other words, jailbreaking is permitted for “telephone handsets,” as it was under the 2010 rules.

Unfortunately, the Librarian “found significant merit to the opposition’s concerns that this aspect of the proposed class was broad and ill-defined, as a wide range of devices might be considered ‘tablets,’ notwithstanding the significant distinctions among them in terms of the way they operate, their intended purposes, and the nature of the applications they can accommodate. For example, an e-book reading device might be considered a ‘tablet,’ as might a handheld video game device or a laptop computer.”

The Librarian ruled that “the record lacked a sufficient basis to develop an appropriate definition for the ‘tablet’ category of devices, a necessary predicate to extending the exemption beyond smartphones.”

In 2006 and 2010, the Librarian of Congress had permitted users to unlock their phones to take them to a new carrier. Now that’s coming to an end. While the new rules do contain a provision allowing phone unlocking, it comes with a crippling caveat: the phone must have been “originally acquired from the operator of a wireless telecommunications network or retailer no later than ninety days after the effective date of this exemption.”

In other words, phones you already have, as well as those purchased between now and next January, can be unlocked. But phones purchased after January 2013 can only be unlocked with the carrier’s permission.

Why the change? The Librarian cited two key factors. One is a 2010 ruling that held that when you purchase software, you don’t actually own it. Rather, you merely license it according to the terms of the End User License Agreement. The Librarian argued that this undermined the claim that unlocking your own phone was fair use.

Also, the Librarian found that there are more unlocked phones on the market than there were three years ago, and that most wireless carriers have liberal policies for unlocking their handsets. As a result, the Librarian of Congress decided that it should no longer be legal to unlock your cell phone without the carrier’s permission.

The most complicated exemption focuses on DVDs. Between now and 2015, it will be legal to rip a DVD “in order to make use of short portions of the motion pictures for the purpose of criticism or comment in the following instances: (i) in noncommercial videos; (ii) in documentary films; (iii) in nonfiction multimedia e-books offering film analysis; and (iv) for educational purposes in film studies or other courses requiring close analysis of film and media excerpts, by college and university faculty, college and university students, and kindergarten through twelfth grade educators.” A similar exemption applies for “online distribution services.”

The Librarian also allowed DVDs to be decrypted to facilitate disability access. Specifically, it’s now legal “to access the playhead and/or related time code information embedded in copies of such works and solely for the purpose of conducting research and development for the purpose of creating players capable of rendering visual representations of the audible portions of such works and/or audible representations or descriptions of the visual portions of such works to enable an individual who is blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing, and who has lawfully obtained a copy of such a work, to perceive the work.”

But the Librarian did not allow circumvention for space-shifting purposes. While public interest groups had argued that consumers should be allowed to rip a DVD in order to watch it on an iPad that lacks a built-in DVD drive, the Librarian concluded that no court has found that such “space shifting” is a fair use under copyright law.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and, well, enjoy unlocking your handsets.

Apple to file injunction against certain Samsung smartphones on December 6th

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Date: Wednesday, August 29th, 2012, 07:22
Category: Legal, News

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Come December 6th, Apple will be looking to take punitive action against Samsung.

Per Reuters, Apple v. Samsung presiding Judge Lucy Koh on Tuesday set the date on which the Court will hear Apple’s request for a permanent sales ban against certain Samsung smartphones.

According to a court order filed on Tuesday, the judge is slated to hear arguments on Dec. 6 regarding Apple’s move for a permanent injunction against eight Samsung handsets identified on Monday.

The order also outlines the deadlines by which both parties must submit their respective replies and oppositions regarding post-judgment filings. In the interest of expediency, Judge Koh has consolidated other post-trial motions for the Dec. 6 hearing. Apple and Samsung were initially scheduled to meet on Sept. 20 to discuss the injunction, but that date is now reserved for the Korean company’s request to dissolve a sales ban against the Galaxy 10.1.

Judge Koh is once again pushing for strict adherence to her mandates regarding post-judgment motions, a position she took during the trial to avoid an onslaught of filings. During the trial, the judge fought to keep the case on track as her “rag tag” team was having trouble keeping up with filings from the two companies’ “legion” of lawyers.

From the order:
“The page limits set forth herein will be strictly enforced. Any argument that is not explicitly articulated within the briefing page limits will be disregarded. Any supporting documentation shall be for corroboration purposes solely and shall not be used as a vehicle for circumventing the Court’s page limits. Any citations to the record must include the relevant testimony or exhibit language. Any single-spaced bullets in an attempt to circumvent the briefing page limits will be disregarded.”

Apple on Friday won a sweeping victory over Samsung as a jury found Samsung in violation of six Apple design and utility patents, assigning damages of nearly US$1.05 billion for the offense.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Samsung vows to appeal, fight injunctions sought by Apple

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Date: Tuesday, August 28th, 2012, 06:59
Category: Legal, News

When you get thrashed to the tune of US$1.05 billion in open court, it’s generally good form to go for the appeal…

According to the Wall Street Journal, Samsung has vowed to fight back and keep some of its best selling products on the market.

Samsung will combat Apple’s attempt to ban the sales of eight smartphones with “all necessary measures,” the company said in a statement issued on Tuesday. Among the options available to Samsung are filing to stop the injunction, appealing if the injunction is granted by Judge Lucy Koh, and modifying its products to circumvent any bans.

Citing an unnamed person familiar with the matter, Tuesday’s report also indicated that officials from Samsung have begun talking to wireless partners about “removing or modifying infringing features to keep products on the market if the injunctions are granted.”

In a filing on Monday, Apple asked the court to bar the sale of 8 Samsung smartphones, including the company’s U.S. Galaxy S II lineup. In all, the phones Apple wishes to bar from sale accounted for US$1.3 billion of Samsung’s U.S. sales during the first six months of 2012, documents disclosed in Samsung’s lawsuit with Apple have revealed.

The eight smartphones Apple hopes to ban accounted for the lion’s share of Samsung’s American profits in the first half of the year. A total of 28 devices were included in the Apple-Samsung case, which earned a collective US$1.5 billion in U.S. sales in the first six months of 2012.

A jury determined last week that Samsung’s products have infringed upon Apple’s patented inventions. The jury awarded Apple nearly $1.05 billion in damages from Samsung as well.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Jury rules in Apple’s favor, Samsung ordered to pay $1.05 billion fine for patent infringement

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Date: Monday, August 27th, 2012, 17:16
Category: Hardware, Legal, News

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It went on for months, it got about as ugly as a legal case could possibly get, but in the end, the jury mostly sided with Apple.

Per Wired and Mac|Life, the verdict came in on Friday with Samsung being ordered to pay US$1.05 billion in damages for violating Apple’s patents for its iPad tablet design.

The court ruled that Samsung had infringed upon patents relating to user interface design (like scrolling and multi-touch), as well as physical design. Samsung could not convince the court that it hadn’t taken its design ideas from Apple’s iPad.

Samsung has vowed to appeal the case while Apple has stated that the company will file for injunctions against Samsung products it believes currently violate its patents.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and please let us know what you make of the case in the comments.

Viacom, Time Warner Cable settle streaming/content spat for TWC TV iPad app

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Date: Thursday, May 17th, 2012, 07:11
Category: iPad, Legal, News, Software

Even the worst spats, complete with attorneys, sometimes get resolved.

Per the mighty TechCrunch, Time Warner Cable and Viacom have agreed to set aside a legal dispute over an iPad app that streams television content within customers’ homes.

The two companies released a joint statement on Wednesday announcing that Viacom content would be coming back to the TWC TV app:

Viacom and Time Warner Cable have agreed to resolve their pending litigations. All of Viacom’s programming will now be available to Time Warner Cable subscribers for in-home viewing via internet protocol-enabled devices such as iPads and Time Warner Cable will continue to carry Viacom’s Country Music Television (CMT) programming. In reaching the settlement agreement, Time Warner Cable and Viacom were also able to resolve other unrelated business matters to their mutual satisfaction. Neither side is conceding its original legal position or will have further comment.

TWC pulled several channels, including MTV and FX, from its iPad app in late March after complaints from the major media companies. Viacom took the most umbrage over the app and filed a lawsuit against Time Warner, which quickly filed a countersuit.

Viacom accused TWC of trying to “unilaterally change the terms” of their contract, while TWC argued that the app simply turned the iPad into another TV screen in the home.