Monday, July 21, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Take my word for it: ‘The Most Ridiculous Law of 2013′

By
From page A4 | January 30, 2013 |

We’ve all heard of ridiculous laws in the United States and wondered why they still exist. For instance, in Maine, it’s illegal to have Christmas decorations up after Jan. 14. In North Carolina, Bingo games can’t last more than five hours.

In Missouri, it’s illegal to drive with an uncaged bear (caged bears are OK). In New Jersey, it is illegal to wear a bulletproof vest while committing a murder (that should make murderers think twice about committing the crime).

In North Dakota, beer and pretzels cannot be served at the same time in any bar or restaurant. In South Carolina, you must be 18 years of age to play a pinball machine.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, chocolate lovers in Idaho will have to keep their expectations limited: In Idaho, it is illegal for a man to give a box of candy weighing more than 50 pounds (is this aimed at solving America’s obesity problem?).

Most of us can laugh off such silliness as these are rarely enforced, or not enforced at all, and don’t apply to most of us. But what about laws being passed now just as ridiculous, and that could end up applying to us all? Our laughs could turn to some frustrating sighs pretty quickly, starting with a law that took effect last Saturday.

As of Jan. 19, if you unlock your cell phone (manually alter it so it will work on a network other than that of the carrier from which you purchased it), you could be breaking the law. It’s no slap on the wrist if you’re prosecuted, either.

The law states:

“BY DECREE OF THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS

IT SHALL HENCEFORCTH BE ORDERED THAT AMERICANS SHALL NOT UNLOCK THEIR OWN SMARTPHONES.

PENALTY: In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.”

For those common with the practice this is a devastating blow. Most notably affected is the ability to use your phone overseas with a different carrier to save on exorbitant fees. But it can affect anyone who has purchased a smart phone, period. When you buy from a carrier — like AT&T, Verizon or Sprint — the phone only works on that carrier’s cellular and data network, unless you unlock the phone. Unlocking phones gives users the ability to use their phones on another carrier at their leisure with a new SIM card, or if they want to take their phones to another carrier for service.

This plays out most often with the overseas scenario, as users will simply use their phone with a “pay as you go” carrier instead for the time they are away, but it can also affect your ability to resell your phone to the public, a common practice nowadays with the popularity of eBay and Craigslist. When unlocking was legal, a buyer of a used phone had the freedom to sign up for whatever service he or she preferred. Now, they’ll be regulated solely to whichever carrier the original buyer purchased from.

If you bought a used Honda car, how would you feel if it were illegal to have it serviced by a Chevy-sponsored garage? If you bought a cool Pepsi mug, would it be fair to go to jail for pouring Coca-Cola in it? Sounds ridiculous, right?

The techie community has been up in arms about the law since last week, so much that it is even trying to get the White House involved.

A petition on WhiteHouse.gov called “Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal” created on Jan. 24 had over 34,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning. Needing 100,000 signatures to prompt an official response from the White House (a threshold that used to be 25,000), the number keeps climbing thanks to social media sites.

Those unfamiliar with the practice of unlocking phones may never know the difference. Why fight for something that doesn’t affect their lives? Because it’s the beginning. It’s another silly law on the books that unfairly attacks our individual rights. We purchased the phones, at which point they became our property. Users aren’t making bombs out of them by unlocking them, they’re making them more personalized to the use they’d prefer. As long as you pay your monthly bill to your carrier (if even under contract), what do they care what you do with your phone otherwise?

Derek Khanna, former staffer for the Republican Study Committee, fiercely opposes the law, and stated it bluntly, calling it “The Most Ridiculous Law of 2013″ in his op-ed piece in The Atlantic:

“If people see this and respond, well no one is really going to get those types of penalties, my response is: Why is that acceptable? While people’s worst fears may be a bit unfounded, why do we accept a system where we allow such discretionary authority? If you or your child were arrested for this, would it comfort you to know that the prosecutor and judge could technically throw the book at you? Would you relax assuming that they probably wouldn’t make an example out of you or your kid? When as a society did we learn to accept the federal government having such Orwellian power? And is this the same country that used jury nullification against laws that it found to be unjust as an additional check upon excessive government power?”

Probably the biggest violation is not even the what or why, but the who. Apparently now a librarian has the power to put us in jail.

“Laws that can place people in jail should be passed by Congress, not by the decree of the Librarian of Congress,” Khanna wrote. “We have no way to hold the Librarian of Congress accountable for wildly unfair laws. There are still plenty of crazy laws passed by elected officials, but at least we can then vote them out of office.”

Patrick Ibarra is managing editor of the Mountain Democrat.

Comments

comments

Patrick Ibarra

.

News

IRS unveils Taxpayer Bill of Rights

By News Release | From Page: B1

 
EDH community unites to patch up historic barn

By Mike Roberts | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Stay connected through sheriff

By El Dorado County Sheriff's Office | From Page: B1

 
Bird tests positive for West Nile

By Ross Branch | From Page: A1

P’ville hires Camino superintendent

By News Release | From Page: B1

 
Heard over the back fence: Public swim times announced

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

 
Highway 50 collision fatal

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

County gets partial refund on promotional event

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A3

 
Jeepers expo Wednesday in Georgetown

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A3

Help SWR with squirrel babies

By Sierra Wildlife Rescue | From Page: A9

 
.

Opinion

The rural life: Save the day: Neuter and spay

By Jennifer Forsberg Meyer | From Page: A4

 
Different place, different priorities

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

California rambling: Giving cities a pass

By John Poimiroo | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
.

Letters

A thank you note

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Prada belongs in Berkeley

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Ready for Hillary?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
Fukushima

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Diamond Springs Firefighters Union is corrupt

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
100+ years and thanks

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

.

Sports

Valley View Sports Park

By Julie Samrick | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Under the Scoreboard: July 20, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

Schedule: July 21-26

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

 
Becker slips by in wild KWS finish

By Gary Thomas | From Page: A6

Sports Scene: July 20, 2014

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A6

 
Roundup: July 20, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A6

Season over for Post 119

By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Sophia Barden wins strut title

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A7

.

Prospecting

How to safely help a horse

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Railroad Museum offers a fun ‘History Happy Hour’

By California State Railroad Museum | From Page: B4

 
As we were: Money for home repairs

By Ken Deibert | From Page: B4

Marshall Medical Center to host day of fitness and fun

By Marshall Medical | From Page: B10

 
Kids parade for free admission to the fair

By Amador County Fair | From Page: B10

Volunteer kitchen help needed in EDH

By Health and Human Services Agency | From Page: B10

 
.

Essentials

Crime Log: July 6-8

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
.

Obituaries

Betty Ellene Hock

By Contributor | From Page: A2Comments are off for this post

 
Douglas J. Beam

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Jerry Grant Young Jr.

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Kathryn Noreen Nolan

By Contributor | From Page: A2

.

Real Estate

.

Comics

Horoscope, Monday, July 21, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Sukodu

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A8

New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
American Profile Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Horoscope, Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8