This week’s Wired News column is entitled Cell Phones Freed! Poor Suffer? After winning a DMCA exemption for cell phone unlocking, TracFone lawyers called to to explain how the DMCA helps them keep handset prices low for grandmothers and immigrants. They said my exemption helps phone arbitragers who buy subsidized TracFones low, unlock them, and sell them overseas at below market price. These people, TracFone says, are criminals, maybe helping terrorists and need the threat of a criminal law like the DMCA to make them stop. The column is a serious look at these claims.

Readers may also be interested to know that during the rulemaking the Librarian of Congress had decided not to consider TracFone’s late comments opposing my exemption. I’m not sure this refusal was the reason I won, because the Copyright Office recommendation to the Librarian did consider, discuss and dismiss TracFone’s comments and nonetheless recommended granting the exemption.

Today, the TracFone lawyers sent me this lawsuit [pdf] filed under the Administrative Procedures Act against the Copyright Office. The lawsuit claims procedural errors denied TracFone an opportunity to be heard on the issue. Stay tuned.

I engage in some retrospection and some wishful thinking in my latest Wired News column, The Bush Era Draws to a Close.

The column reviews three recent trends — legal attacks on journalists, “extraordinary rendition” and torture, and implementation of a surveillance infrastructure — and suggests opportunities for improvement.