0 16 min 12 mths

Isn’t it fair to demand that all users must be able to install and run free software operating systems like GNU/Linux or reliable alternatives on any computer or gadget they own, to protect themselves from proprietary giant brands, and make their computers work the way they want, instead being puppets of few large spectrum and brand owners spreading adware, spyware, malware, appware or whatever. They must be permitted to do this themselves, or ask someone else to do it for them.

But political and corporate cronies even in US are not interested to fully address provisions to block users from fully enjoying their rights with the devices they own. As India’s elite debating class in most streams just copies and rewrites democracy lessons mostly from US for domestic agendas, what happens in US is crucial – the desi multi-passport chameleons sway with smell of currency and hide behind democratic excuses.

Every three years, the Library of Congress in US is charged with carving out exemptions from the DMCA’s (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) anti-circumvention provisions. In 2012, the Free Software Foundation pushed for a broader range of exemptions in order to protect users, but the Library of Congress wasn’t listening. Unfortunately, big corporations had their ear that year, and instead of expanding protection for users, they actually took it away. In particular, the right to “unlock” your cellphone to switch carriers was snatched away, and the right to install software on other devices like tablets was not extended. This justifiably caused an outpouring of anger, which eventually forced the hand of Congress and the President to address the issue. Stand up for your freedom to install software and defend privacy, who is interested in market cap of giants touching zillions or zeros!

Unfortunately, nearly two years later, the government’s response is not fully satisfactory. President Obama has signed into law the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. The law repeals the 2012 Library of Congress ruling on unlocking cell phones and re-implements the previously existing exemption. It also encourages the Library of Congress to consider whether this exemption should be extended to other wireless devices next year when the next round of exemptions will be implemented. Finally, while it allows users to have someone unlock their phone for them, it does not permit so-called “bulk unlocking,” where someone buys multiple phones and unlocks them for resale.

The law as passed restores the right to unlock your cellphone, at least until the next round of exemptions come out, which is less than a year from now. It is great that users once again have the ability to unlock their cellphones, and US Congress and the President should be commended for acting on an issue that is important to so many. But when it takes two years to correct a mistake that can happen every three years, users are left with only a short window to enjoy their rights before they are taken away again.

And while the law encourages the Library of Congress to consider applying the same exemption to other devices like tablets, the Library of Congress is free to once again ignore the rights of users in regards to their hardware. Even if the Library of Congress were to follow that recommendation, nothing in the law even mentions the right to install your own software on your other wireless devices, and doesn’t address at all other hardware items like video game consoles. That leaves users in a terrible position. Additionally problematic is the law’s carve out on “bulk unlocking.”

When done correctly, “Secure Boot” is designed to protect against malware by preventing computers from loading unauthorized binary programs when booting. In practice, this means that computers implementing it won’t boot unauthorized operating systems – including initially authorized systems that have been modified without being re-approved.

Are you sure each of your digital act is not spied by Windows 8+, iPhone, Android, Nokia, Google, Facebook, Twitter, NSA, RAW, ISI, CBI, Apps …..? This is NOT cost of access to best and easy technology, just signs of our gradual surrender to crooks panning smarter ways to loot using personal info, at best. Currently, app brands are looking for pie in loot via innovation, freedom jugaad and secret or covert anti #NetNeutrality acts. It’s true affects will be felt during events like trans-national uprisings or wars in future.

Also think if Digital India Right to Scale for Corporates or Right to Privacy for Commoners; which is more profitable for sponsored donors of our ruling elite in all colors of bunkers? (Oct 7, 2014)

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