Why Cellphone Unlocking Could Soon Be Illegal Once Again

The massive missive, passed in 1998, governs the tense and often amorphous intersection of intellectual property and physical property. The law was birthed when digital piracy (of things like DVDs and music) first and truly reared its head. As a reaction, Congress built “anti-circumvention” edicts into Section 1201 of the DMCA. The provision makes it a violation of copyright law to break any sort of technological protection measure over content—like, say, the encryption on DVDs. But the DMCA doesn’t take intention into account. Breaking the lock is a violation, whether or not the locked content is actually pirated.

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