Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday Tech Tips: Cellphone unlocking, copyright, and DRM

This week's post is not so much a tip as it is a topic for discussion.

Maybe you've heard about the cellphone unlocking bill up before Congress.  How will this affect you?  For one thing, you would be able to switch carriers without having to buy a new phone.  You'd be able to resell your phone.  Right now unlocking your phone without authorization means risking penalties as severe as a $500,000 fine and five years in prison.

The question is: if you paid for something, shouldn't you have control over it?  Whether we're talking about your cell phone or your car.

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I went to a book talk about steampunk a couple years ago.  One of the reasons steampunk has become so popular, said one of the authors, is that people want to be able to understand and fix their devices, instead of throwing them away or paying someone else to repair them.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act makes this tough, or even criminal.

I have been trying to find a simple breakdown of the DMCA and also Digital Rights Management but even the simplest explanations require that you sit yourself down for a while.  There are lots of compelling arguments against DMCA and DRM and while I advise reading those, I ALSO advise that you learn as much about copyright law as your brain can handle.

I think everyone can agree that people should be fairly compensated and/or credited for their intellectual property.  I also think that if we're not allowed to tinker and explore -- if we are passive and hand over our understanding of how things work -- we're going to lose a lot of great new ideas. 

Read up, read up guys!  And share your thoughts in the comments and with each other.


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