Senate passes bill to make cell phone unlocking legal
The U.S. Senate has unanimously voted to legalize the unlocking of cell phones, passing a bill that will now allow consumers to more easily move from one wireless carrier to another. The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act not only permits consumers to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or civil penalties, but also urges the Librarian of Congress to “consider whether other wireless devices, like tablets, should be eligible for unlocking.” Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, the author of the bill, states that the Act will “promote competition in the wireless phone marketplace” by allowing consumers to “use their existing cell phones on the wireless carrier of their choice.” Joe Mullin of Ars Technica provides further background information on the legal history of cellphone unlocking.
ABA urges lawyers to stop pursuing file sharing lawsuits
In an exhaustive 133-page white paper released by the American Bar Association entitled A Call For Action in Online Piracy and Counterfeiting Legislation, the ABA has discouraged its more than 400,000 members from lodging lawsuits against those who engage in illegal online file sharing. The authors explain that “while it is technically possible for trademark and copyright owners to proceed with civil litigation against the consuming public who . . . engage in illegal file sharing, campaigns like this have been expensive, do not yield significant financial returns, and can cause a public relations problem for the plaintiff.” The ABA makes sure to point out the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America’s previously futile litigation campaigns against illegal file sharing. Eric Blattberg of VentureBeat notes that, as an alternative to legal action, the ABA proposes the “content industry spend its time educating the public on the negative impact of stealing content, like damage to the U.S. economy.”
FBI cautions that driverless cars may be used to assist criminal behavior
The Guardian has obtained an internal report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation that details some of the agency’s concerns with autonomous cars. The report, written by agents in the Strategic Issues Group within the FBI’s Directorate of Intelligence, states that “bad actors will be able to conduct tasks that require use of both hands,” such as firing a weapon at pursuant law enforcement as the car drives him or her away, or “taking one’s eyes off the road.” The report also discusses the possibility that driverless car technology may be used for “dual-use applications” or as “more of a potential lethal weapon.” This presumably reflects worries that hackers could access the cars’ systems remotely, or, as the Guardian notes, that “terrorists might program explosive-packed cars to become self-driving bombs.” Josh Wolford of WebProNews provides commentary.