ISRI’s electronics recycling members had a dream: They wanted to be able to unlock cellphones in bulk for refurbishment and reuse, but they couldn’t do so under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
Recognizing the sustainability and business benefits of cellphone unlocking, ISRI approved a policy statement supporting that practice in 2013, and it lobbied diligently to gain support for the activity. In the end, its efforts bore fruit: ISRI was instrumental in the passage of a federal cellphone unlocking bill in 2014, a huge victory for the industry, says Billy Johnson, ISRI’s director of political and public affairs at the time. The legislation enables cellphone refurbishers to unlock cellphones in bulk so they can repair or resell them. In 2015, ISRI secured a new three-year exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 so recyclers could continue to sell cellphones and tablets free from locks that tie them to a single carrier, crafting the exemption to protect legitimate recyclers without freeing traffickers from liability.