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Unauthorized Unlocking of New Mobile Phones Set to Become Illegal in U.S.

As noted by Tech News Daily, a new federal policy in the United States is set to go into effect this Saturday that will make it illegal for certain mobile phone owners to unlock their devices for use on other carriers unless specifically authorized by their carriers. The policy applies to newly purchased devices beginning on Saturday, but not to legacy devices purchased prior to that date.
In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who determines exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be allowed. But the librarian provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on January 26.
Unlocking devices allows users to take their phones to other carriers such as T-Mobile or to use SIM cards from international carriers while traveling abroad without needing to purchase expensive international roaming packages from their domestic carrier.


Users can, of course, still purchase unlocked iPhones at unsubsidized prices, and, last April, AT&T began unlocking iPhones for customers whose contract terms were completed or who had paid early termination fees to end them early. The SIM card slots on the Verizon iPhone 5 are already unlocked, while Sprint announced that it would unlock the SIM card slot on its iPhones for international usage three months after purchase.

In the decision outlined in the Federal Register, these policies were cited as reasons for not allowing an unlocking exemption to the DMCA for newly purchased devices.
The Register concluded after a review of the statutory factors that an exemption to the prohibition on circumvention of mobile phone computer programs to permit users to unlock "legacy'' phones is both warranted and unlikely to harm the market for such programs. At the same time, in light of carriers' current unlocking policies and the ready availability of new unlocked phones in the marketplace, the record did not support an exemption for newly purchased phones. Looking to precedents in copyright law, the Register recommended that the class designated by the Librarian include a 90-day transitional period to allow unlocking by those who may acquire phones shortly after the new exemption goes into effect.
Carriers such as AT&T already forbid unauthorized unlocking in their customer contracts, but the clarification of DMCA policy with respect to unlocking will now make the issue a criminal one. iPhone unlocking services have enjoyed a fair amount of popularity, and while a substantial pool of eligible legacy devices will remain, it appears that these services will be unable to legally unlock any new devices for their customers.

Related roundup: iPhone 6

Top Rated Comments

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23 months ago
I think in the UK it is illegal for telco's to lock a mobile and not give you the ability to unlock it.
Rating: 84 Votes
23 months ago

but the clarification of DMCA policy with respect to unlocking will now make the issue a criminal one.


It'll be criminal to unlock a phone? Incredible.

Customers are already paying back the subsidy through a term contract with the carrier, regardless of whether the phone is unlocked or not.

Talk about anti-consumer.
Rating: 77 Votes
23 months ago
Just what the competitive telco landscape needs in the USA

/Sacrasm
Rating: 70 Votes
23 months ago
This is what a massive, extremely powerful federal government looks like - the power is taken from the people and given to the powerful.
Rating: 63 Votes
23 months ago
Only in the U.S...
Rating: 60 Votes
23 months ago
It's why 2013 will be like 1984...
Rating: 39 Votes
23 months ago
************ !

What.. the government is going to give me 10 years, The library of Congress can go to hell
Rating: 37 Votes
23 months ago
I am 74 years old and can remember when our beautiful country was free.

The corporations have taken over and now we live in a Fascist country. You younger ones do not know what you are missing in quality of life. Freedom was very very good. Video cameras everywhere, Homeland security agency, torture of prisoners, largest prison population by several times in the world, etc.
Rating: 37 Votes
23 months ago
Welcome to the land of the free!

Now shut your mouth and show me your papers.
Rating: 30 Votes
23 months ago

This is what a massive, extremely powerful federal government looks like - the power is taken from the people and given to the powerful.


Actually, this is what government controlled by powerful corporations looks like! I'm all for government run well--by people, not by money. But money talks. Take government out of the picture or shrink it and you'd still have big money--big corporations--running the show. In fact, I'd say a WELL-run powerful government, wielding power by/for all people instead of the rich alone, is the only way to keep unreasonable power away from abusive corporations.

(Sadly, such a government is not what we have. The path to getting one begins, I feel, with a multiple-vote system, thus breaking the stagnant two-party system. Some cities use such a system already. They work!)
Rating: 29 Votes

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