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The Unlocking Technology Act of 2015: The Key to the Cell Phone Unlocking Saga?

Alexander E. Porter

©2016. Published in Landslide, Vol. 9, No. 2, November/December 2016, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

In October 2014, the Pew Research Center reported that 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone.1 This figure is nearly double the percentage reported just two years earlier in 2012. Approximately 29 percent of American adults also stated that their cell phone is “something they can’t imagine living without.”2 Given this, it is evident that mobile phones are increasingly becoming an indispensable part of daily life. However, as cell phones become more significant in daily life, there is a correlating demand for the law to accommodate such a change. In this context, this article discusses the Unlocking Technology Act of 2015, which was introduced in March 2015 and seeks to address the legality of unlocking cell phones and switching networks.3 In what some scholars call the “cell phone unlocking saga,” this bill has potential to either bring years of controversy to an end, or to reignite the question of whether consumers can legally unlock their cellular phones without legal repercussions under copyright law.

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