Home | Business | Congress Makes Unlocking Smartphones Legal
Business Industry

Congress Makes Unlocking Smartphones Legal

License agreement

This week, the Congress approved a bill allowing anyone to unlock their cell phones, regardless of restrictions may have been required when signing cell phone contracts. The Senate passed a similar version earlier in the month and President Obama will soon add his signature. Given the ease at which this Bipartisan bill passed, maybe its time for Congress to take another step and help limit other onerous clauses in the terms of service and license agreements consumers sign in order to access most services on the web.

When signing a cell phone contract, customers often received free or discounts on smartphones. Cell phone carriers created the unlocking provisions as a means of keeping customers from switching to another provider. The phone essentially remained the property of the cell phone carrier, with the customer receiving only a license to use the phone. Regardless of whether the customer broke their contract or had fully completed their contract, they couldn’t use their phone with another provider.

Each cell phone carriers tied its smartphones to its own network contractually; leaving cash strapped consumers with little choice but to stay with their carrier.

The Library of Congress Made the problem even worse

Then in 2012, the Library of Congress (LOC) created a legislative rule that made it illegal to unlock a cell phone without a service provider’s permission. The rule had heavy monetary penalties and, potentially, time in prison. Now, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act reverses that ruling, although only temporarily. In 2015, the rule goes back to the LOC for reconsideration, where this Congressional action can be overturned. Reconsideration will be reviewed every three years. We can only hope that the LOC won’t return to such a nonsensical rule.

Having found an issue that this divided Congress was actually able to pass, Congress should take another step and tackle other burdensome licensing requirements, particularly those that unnecessarily require consumer’s to give up intellectual property rights as a prerequisite of membership. Various social media, photo-sharing, blogging or any other site that include user generated content, and the user will be required to sign an End User License Agreement (EULA), which often include clauses that are unnecessary.

Facebook, for example, gains the right to a user’s content which can be used outside of Facebook, including any photos or videos posted. Below is a clause from the Facebook EULA:

For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.

Posting a photo set to “public” viewing, gives Facebook the right to use that photo in any way they like.

License Agreement

Facebook can also give it to someone else, such as an advertising agency, as long as the use has something to do with Facebook.   Facebook’s license isn’t perpetual as it ends when the user deletes the photo. Except, if someone had shared that photo, then Facebook maintains the license until the shared copy is deleted. Even if the user deletes their account, Facebook still maintains the unhindered right to use that photo.

Some people would say, “if you don’t like the policy, then don’t join. Facebook can do what it wants with its own company.” That may be true, and if the problem lay only with Facebook, it wouldn’t be such an issue. Unfortunately, many sites have the same type of EULA, and in our Internet driven society, it is not practical to boycott all of them. Most consumers aren’t even aware that they are giving up those rights or which sites to avoid. It isn’t realistic to expect consumers to read every EULA, Privacy Policy or Terms of Service. Many of these policies are long and filled with legal jargon that many consumers wouldn’t fully understand. So instead, users click the “agree” box, move on and hope for the best.

In many cases, it is the lesser of two evils. As a photographer, I find it useful to upload photos to Facebook for many reasons, such as promoting my gallery shows. For me, the benefit outweighs the risk, but is that risk really necessary. Does Facebook really need an unlimited right to my work, or are they using their market dominance and power in the market to take advantage of people. For many people and small businesses, Facebook is an important tool for cost effectively reaching their customers. Facebook know that so adding clauses like the one mentioned earlier may aggravate people, but it won’t stop them from using the service.

To be fair, while companies like Facebook have these rights grabbing clauses, there is some self-regulation due to the public outcry that would occur should they use those rights to their fullest. Whether companies will always be worried about the potential PR backlash remains to be seen. Corporate management can be replaced causing a shift in corporate culture and attitudes. Even Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple before they begged him to return.

Maybe these companies will remain tempered but would anyone be shocked if Facebook used user content in a way that the user didn’t like?

Allowing user to unlock their cell phones may seem like a small prize, but it is still a win against nonsensical or burdensome contractual licensing clauses. If consumers are lucky, maybe Congress can take that idea a little further and give consumers control over their online content as well.

 

About the author

Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art and law. Should you have any questions on Intellectual Property contact him at [email protected] His photography can be seen online at Fotofilosophy.com or on display at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{{Privy:Embed campaign=133844}}

The Latest From Artrepreneur

  • Why Storytelling is Crucial for Artists

    Artists who identify and satisfy our ongoing search for meaning by describing art they create have already discovered this crucial truth: artists that engage in storytelling create a compelling reason for collectors and admirers to invest in their […]

  • Is Virtual Reality the Future of Art?

    As virtual reality takes hold of the film industry, artists, galleries, and cultural institutions are incorporating VR art as a component of their program or practice. We take a look at this growing trend in the art world. The post Is Virtual […]

  • Craft An Art Director Portfolio That Gets You Booked

    A well-curated art director portfolio is what potential clients and hiring managers are really paying attention to when looking for new talent. Creative Circle recruiter Gabriela Williams offers her insight for putting your best work forward. The […]

  • Four Artist Open Calls to Apply to This Summer

    Artists seeking to get their work in front of gallerists and collectors might consider applying to an open call this summer. From London to Miami, find out what curators are looking for in these four artist open calls and get your work in front of a […]

  • Four Communication Skills Every Art Student Should Master

    As an art student, you are quickly learning that effectively communicating your artistic vision is key to your success. Here, we review the four communication skills every artist should master, from interpersonal and writing skills to becoming a […]

  • How [and Where] Can I License Artwork?

    Licensing art is a common practice among artists seeking additional revenue streams. Here, we discuss the details of a typical artist licensing agreement and offer suggestions for companies you may want to approach with your work. The post How [and […]

  • Aerial Photographer Antoine Rose on Self-Funding, Selling Work

    Producing work is arduous, expensive and often challenging for Antoine Rose, a fine art aerial photographer that's shot aerial images of some of the world's most bustling landscapes. Here, he goes into detail about how he finances each project, and […]

  • How to Develop a Buzzworthy Artist Branding Strategy

    Apart from talent, artists require a certain level of “buzz” in order to progress to new levels of recognition in their art careers. Creating an artist branding strategy can elevate your work to a wider audience, and generate new interest and […]

  • Five Emerging Asian Artists to Watch

    In recent years, contemporary Asian artists are finding greater recognition in the eyes of the Western art market. We review the emerging Asian artists to watch, including Phi Phi Oanh, Donna Ong, and more. The post Five Emerging Asian Artists to […]

  • This Service Connects the Emerging Photographer With New Clients

    If you're an emerging photographer looking for steady work, Wonderful Machine can help you get your work in front of thousands of potential clients. Find out how this monthly subscription service can help you streamline your art business. The post […]

  • An Animation Artist’s Journey from College to Career

    Animation artist Mack O'Conor used his time at art school to hone his technical skills and develop his professional goals. Here, he shares his advice for navigating the college experience, from developing a solid portfolio to choosing the right art […]

  • Searching for Studio Spaces? Heed These Five Tips

    From location and ventilation to the community working within, artists searching for studio spaces should consider a variety of factors before signing on the dotted line. Independent artists and studio managers share their best strategies for […]

  • How Can I Fund Art Exhibitions and Other Projects? [Part I]

    We review the necessary steps artists seeking to fund art projects must take before they solicit financing partners, and review three key methods frequently used to fund art projects – self-funding, crowdsourcing, and fiscal sponsorship. The post […]

  • Award-Winning Makeup Artist Julie Teel’s Rise From Fashion School to Film Set

    Entirely self-taught, makeup artist Julie Teel went from studying fashion design to working as a key makeup artist on shows like 30 Rock and Gossip Girl. Here, she shares her advice for navigating the industry, from landing word-of-mouth referrals […]

  • Creative Placemaking: Art as a Genesis for Civic Transformation

    Metropolitan growth across the United States is often fueled by access to arts and culture. Artists play a pivotal role in this phenomenon, known as creative placemaking. Here, we discuss creative placemaking as a way to engage residents locally […]

  • How to Earn Your Living as a Travel Photographer

    The prospect of traveling the world while getting paid to work may seem farfetched, but these two photographers have the ticket to landing freelance creative work across the globe. Here, Andy Donohoe and Michaela Trimble share their advice for […]

  • A Recruiter’s Advice for your Video or Motion Design Reel

    Creative Circle recruiter Brooks Rowlett sifts through hundreds of motion design reels and video editor portfolios each week. Here, he shares his best advice for motion designers and video editors looking to land their next big gig. The post A […]

  • From Tattoo Artist to Brand Empire: The Rise of the Ink Mogul

    The savvy tattoo artist uses brand recognition to launch a multimedia business. These four artists have leveraged their underground celebrity status to build a brand empire, complete with product lines, book deals, and TV contracts. The post From […]

  • Exploring the Intersection of Art and Technology

    The advent of technology is re-shaping the practice of art. These educational institutions, artists, and startups are exploring art and technology's convergence in today's increasingly digital world. The post Exploring the Intersection of Art and […]

  • Work with an Artist Mentor to Get Your Career on Track

    Many of the world's most recognized artists sought inspiration and guidance from their peers. Gain insight into your practice and learn about the business of art by finding an artist mentor whose career aligns with your own vision for success. The […]

  • Why Artists Need to Make Copyright Registration a Priority

    Sharing, posting, and distributing your work online is easier than ever - but often times, visual artists find themselves dealing with online piracy issues as a result of that practice. Initiating a copyright registration routine can curb the […]

  • How Artists on Social Media Can Grow Their Following

    By sticking to the tenets of the social media pyramid, artists on social media can develop an engaged audience. The post How Artists on Social Media Can Grow Their Following appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • How [and Where] to Submit an Art Fair Application

    Submitting an art fair application doesn't have to be an arduous process. We break down which fairs are currently accepting submissions, and how you should apply. The post How [and Where] to Submit an Art Fair Application appeared first on […]

  • The Paperwork Behind Your Art Business [Part I]

    In this ongoing series, we'll review the various documents needed to get your art business up and running. First up: Crafting your artist proposal. The post The Paperwork Behind Your Art Business [Part I] appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • A Creative Career Coach Outlines a Strategy for the Working Artist

    Marc Zegans coaches artists planning the next move in their art careers. Here, he shares his proven approach for developing your practice as a working artist. The post A Creative Career Coach Outlines a Strategy for the Working Artist appeared first […]

  • Artists Who Failed – And Found Success Anyway

    Some of the world's most successful artists weren't always so revered. Meet five artists who failed to develop their art careers during their lifetime. The post Artists Who Failed – And Found Success Anyway appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • How Do Online Content Moderation Policies Treat Nudity in Art?

    As Facebook's online content moderation policies come under fire, we review creative platform Orangenius' policy on nudity in art. The post How Do Online Content Moderation Policies Treat Nudity in Art? appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Self Employed? Five Ways To Get Into the Creative Habit

    Self-employed artists don't always leave room for inspiration. Boost productivity and get into the creative habit with these proven strategies. The post Self Employed? Five Ways To Get Into the Creative Habit appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • A Creative in a Corporate Organization: Related Group’s Art Department

    In this ongoing series, we explore the creative roles available in the most unlikely of corporations. Our first installment talks to Patricia Hanna, the Art Director of Related Group. The post A Creative in a Corporate Organization: Related […]

  • Five Alternative Income Strategies for Independent Artists

    Independent artists shouldn't have to go hungry. We explore five alternative income streams to keep your art business on track. The post Five Alternative Income Strategies for Independent Artists appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Creative Designer Cat Lo on Executing Your Vision

    Creative designer Cat Lo works in a variety of design mediums. She shares her insight on balancing client expectations with creativity and setting freelance rates. The post Creative Designer Cat Lo on Executing Your Vision appeared first on […]

  • How One Graphic Designer Lands Gigs with the World’s Most Recognized Brands

    Graphic designer Carolina Niño shares her insight on working with brands like Adidas and Wired, while dishing on her recent collaboration with Colombian music group Bomba Estereo. The post How One Graphic Designer Lands Gigs with the World’s […]

  • Need a UX Portfolio? Recruiters Share Their Do’s and Dont’s

    A UX portfolio that well-documents your process will definitely get you noticed by creative recruitment professionals, says Creative Circle recruiter Elizabeth Calabrese-Mahnken. The post Need a UX Portfolio? Recruiters Share Their Do’s and […]

  • How One Designer Landed a Celebrity Endorsement to Launch Her Brand

    A celebrity endorsement by JBalvin has set emerging indie brand Collab Store on a path to viral success. The post How One Designer Landed a Celebrity Endorsement to Launch Her Brand appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Need Affordable Studio Spaces in New York? chashama Can Help

    By re-purposing out-of-use properties across New York, chashama can offer artists affordable studio spaces in the city. The post Need Affordable Studio Spaces in New York? chashama Can Help appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Why Companies Like Nike Are Shifting to Design Led Business

    While working at companies like Nike and The Gap, Lydia Hummel noticed a need for a shift toward design led business that allows creative designers to predict consumer trends. The post Why Companies Like Nike Are Shifting to Design Led Business […]

  • Five Takeaways from TEFAF’s Report on the Art Market

    The TEFAF report illustrates the challenges facing today's art market. These are the top five findings affecting artists and gallery owners. The post Five Takeaways from TEFAF’s Report on the Art Market appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • How Visual Artists Can Land Public Art Commissions

    Government leaders share their best tips for responding to a Request for Qualifications and landing public art commissions. The post How Visual Artists Can Land Public Art Commissions appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Bill Chisholm’s Finely-Tuned Strategy for Landing Gallery Representation

    Painter Bill Chisholm has grown a successful art business by crafting a formulaic approach to gallery representation. The post Bill Chisholm’s Finely-Tuned Strategy for Landing Gallery Representation appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Can Sharing Political Views on Social Websites Harm Art Careers?

    Artists find that sharing political art or views on social websites can sometimes have negative consequences for their art careers. The post Can Sharing Political Views on Social Websites Harm Art Careers? appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • ICYMI: The Week in Art News May 7-12

    This week in art news, Damien Hirst stirs controversy at the Venice Biennale, and an artist admits to stealing someone else's work. The post ICYMI: The Week in Art News May 7-12 appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Why Sotheby’s Institute Art Business Degrees Fast-Track Art Careers

    Find out why Sotheby's Institute grads are uniquely positioned to excel in the art business. The post Why Sotheby’s Institute Art Business Degrees Fast-Track Art Careers appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Frieze New York Reports Record Crowds and Million-Dollar Sales

    The sixth annual Frieze New York art fair welcomed over 200 galleries to Randall's Island Park. The post Frieze New York Reports Record Crowds and Million-Dollar Sales appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Shokunin Gives Artisan Products a Global Sales Platform

    Richa Agarwal worked in apparel design before founding Shokunin, a global platform to artisan products and their makers. The post Shokunin Gives Artisan Products a Global Sales Platform appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • ICYMI: The Week in Art News May 1-5

    This week's art news for the art entrepreneur: The Met Gala doesn't disappoint, and New York voters have to choose their favorite design. The post ICYMI: The Week in Art News May 1-5 appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Photographer Robert Farber on Maintaining Commercial Success

    Whether fine art, fashion or advertising photography, Robert Farber has managed to maintain decades of success as an artist. The post Photographer Robert Farber on Maintaining Commercial Success appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Hung Yi: The Taiwanese Artist Transforming Public Art

    Hung Yi, a force in the Taiwan art landscape, is taking his penchant for public art installations to various cities across the U.S. The post Hung Yi: The Taiwanese Artist Transforming Public Art appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Five Challenges Facing The Art Entrepreneur

    There are a variety of challenges facing today's art entrepreneur, but they don't have to sidetrack an art business. The post Five Challenges Facing The Art Entrepreneur appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • ICYMI: The Week in Art News April 24-28

    This week in art news: Sotheby's takes a hit, a muralist is caught red-handed, and Christie's makes a shift in their art business strategy. The post ICYMI: The Week in Art News April 24-28 appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]

  • Two Russian Artists Give Their Take on the Russian Art Market

    Nastya Varlamova and Luliian Melian tell Artrepreneur that emerging Russian artists still struggle to gain international acclaim. The post Two Russian Artists Give Their Take on the Russian Art Market appeared first on Artrepreneur. […]