House Passes Bill Allowing Cell Phone Unlocking
But only after controversy over last-minute provision
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2014 11:32 AM CST

(Newser) – The House yesterday passed a bill that would make it legal to unlock your phone, despite pushback from Democrats over a last-minute addition to the bill banning "bulk unlocking." You'd be forgiven for not realizing that unlocking a phone—meaning making it work on other carriers—was illegal in the first place; it wasn't until recently, when the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress decided not to renew an exemption in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the Hill explains.

The legislation is widely popular, but consumer groups pulled their support over the bulk unlocking ban, which could damage the market for unlocked phones. It "puts a real poison pill in this bill for consumer advocates," one Democrat said. A carrier lobbying group countered that bulk unlocking has been banned since 2010, and that the provision should only be controversial for those "fencing stolen devices." A spokesman for Patrick Leahy tells the National Journal that he may oppose the language in the Senate bill.