Sunday, September 30, 2007

If you care about your rights, don't buy an iPhone:

Late last fall, the Library of Congress issued six exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the far-ranging anti-piracy law that governs virtually all modern technologies. Among the exemptions was this: It is perfectly legal to unlock your mobile phone in order to move it to a cellular network of your choice. (See item No. 5 here.)

Consumer advocates hailed the decision. Not only is "cell phone portability" obviously fair, allowing customers to do what they choose with devices they have purchased legally, but it is also inarguably good for the wireless phone business, promoting competition in an industry that regularly scores in the pits for customer satisfaction.

It's not surprising that, a year after the Library of Congress's ruling, wireless companies have not appreciably changed their business models; they still frown on unlocking. But this week something dramatic occurred in the war for consumers' "freedom to tinker." Apple, a company highly regarded by its customers, staked out its position in the fight. The wrong position: Apple adopted a draconian policy against people who dared to do something perfectly legal with their iPhones, and thus came out in support of the wireless industry -- and against its own customers' rights.