Hearing of the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee - H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act

Press Release

By:  Bob Goodlatte
Date: June 6, 2013
Location: Washington, DC

Three months ago, I introduced H.R. 1123, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, to ensure that consumers continue to be able to unlock their cell phones. Americans who have completed their phone contracts or have purchased a used phone want to be able to use their device on their network of choice. They have made that preference loud and clear and Congress has listened.

H.R. 1123 restores the previous authority for cell phone unlocking and adds a new rulemaking process for related wireless devices such as tablets and other cellular connected devices. The witnesses today have indicated their support of unlocking. I recognize that there are some who would prefer a longer exemption. However, in the interest of helping consumers today and not running afoul of several of our nation's Free Trade Agreements, H.R. 1123 reinstates an exemption for cell phone unlocking until the next rulemaking process.

I have often spoken about the need to protect the creator and how theft of their works affects not just that creator, but our nation's economy as a whole. An important part of helping creators is to enable them to protect their works from theft in the first place by using technological protection measures. I believe that Section 1201 is an important tool that helps creators protect their works from theft.

However, an important safeguard - the triennial rulemaking process - was built into Section 1201 to recognize when technological protection measures might adversely affect non-infringing uses of copyrighted works. The Register's authority to recommend an exemption is limited by the record that is presented to her by proponents of any exemption. In prior rulemakings, the record was sufficient to justify an exemption for cell phone unlocking. That was not the case in 2012, leaving it to Congress to determine if such an exemption was warranted.

Today we will hear from several witnesses, all of whom participated in the 2012 rulemaking, who do feel such an exemption is warranted. I also recognize that some may prefer changes to the underlying statutory language of Section 1201. Whether or not such changes would have the support of this Committee is a question for another day. I have already announced a comprehensive review of our nation's copyright law and there will no doubt be a future opportunity for interested parties to discuss Section 1201 in more detail.