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Congress answers White House cell phone call

Well that didn’t take long. One day after the White House issued a statement endorsing consumers’ right to unlock their cell phones, despite the DMCA’s ban on the practice recently upheld by the Library of Congress, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and several other lawmakers from both major parties said they will support legislation to legalize the practice.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) was first out of the gate with a bill, introducing the Wireless Device Independence Act, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, said she plans to introduce her own bill this week. Over in the House, Rep. Jason Chafetz (R-UT) tweeted that he is working on a bill as well, while Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) said they would support legislation to address the issue.

Whether any such legislation will remain limited to the cell phone unlocking issue, however, is uncertain. There are many in Washington itching for a shot at the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions generally who may try to seize on the bi-partisan support for cell phone unlocking as a vehicle to re-open the law.

Speaking at a Capitol Hill event yesterday alongside Rep. Issa and Polis, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel strongly endorsed the White House statement and suggested that the Library of Congress’ role in administering the exemption process “might need a second look.” That’s just the sort of opening a lot of critics of the law have been hoping for.