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.

unlocked
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.

Top Rated Comments

fullstop102 Avatar
114 months ago
A little backwards

I think in the UK it is illegal for telco's to lock a mobile and not give you the ability to unlock it.
Score: 84 Votes (Like | Disagree)
profets Avatar
114 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.
Score: 77 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dwalls90 Avatar
114 months ago
Just what the competitive telco landscape needs in the USA

/Sacrasm
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jay_app Avatar
114 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.
Score: 63 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iPhoneApple Avatar
114 months ago
Only in the U.S...
Score: 60 Votes (Like | Disagree)
usersince86 Avatar
114 months ago
1984

It's why 2013 will be like 1984...
Score: 39 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
General Spotify Feature

Spotify Pauses Plans to Add AirPlay 2 Support to iOS App [Update: Spotify Clarifies]

Friday August 6, 2021 9:07 am PDT by
See update at bottom of article Spotify this week confirmed that its plans to add AirPlay 2 support to its iOS app have been placed on indefinite hiatus. In an online discussion forum post, a Spotify representative said the streaming music service had been working on supporting AirPlay 2, but the company has paused the efforts "for now" due to "audio driver compatibility issues." The...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
m1 macbook air

Kuo: Mini-LED MacBook Air Coming in Mid-2022

Thursday July 22, 2021 7:48 pm PDT by
Apple will release a new version of the MacBook Air around the middle of 2022, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in note to investors seen by MacRumors. The upcoming MacBook Air will feature a 13.3-inch mini-LED display, which would make it the second Mac to gain mini-LED technology after the 2021 MacBook Pro, which is rumored to include a mini-LED display and is expected to launch later ...
Apple Films Tom Hanks Finch First Look

Apple Original Film 'Finch' Starring Tom Hanks to Premiere November 5

Thursday August 12, 2021 8:52 am PDT by
Apple today announced that the original film "Finch," starring Tom Hanks in its titular role, will premiere on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 5 and shared a first-look image from the film. The first look at "Finch," shared by Apple. The film, which is anticipated to be an awards season contender, revolves around a man, a robot (played by "Get Out" actor Caleb Landry Jones), and a dog that form ...
whatsintheboxiphonexs

Apple's iPhone XS, XS Max and XR Won't Ship With Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter

Wednesday September 12, 2018 12:58 pm PDT by
Since the headphone jack was removed from the iPhone with the launch of the iPhone 7, Apple has bundled iPhones with a Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter for customers who continue to have 3.5mm headphones. With the launch of the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR, Apple is discontinuing this practice and will not include the Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter. On the...
macbook air m1 first benchmark

Apple Silicon M1 Chip in MacBook Air Outperforms High-End 16-Inch MacBook Pro

Wednesday November 11, 2020 4:43 pm PST by
Apple introduced the first MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini with M1 Apple Silicon chips yesterday, and as of today, the first benchmark of the new chip appears to be showing up on the Geekbench site. The M1 chip, which belongs to a MacBook Air with 8GB RAM, features a single-core score of 1687 and a multi-core score of 7433. According to the benchmark, the M1 has a 3.2GHz base...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Begins Preparation for iPhone 13 Production Ahead of Fall Launch

Monday June 28, 2021 3:29 am PDT by
We're just a few months away from when Apple is expected to reveal the 2021 iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 13." In preparation for its launch, it has been pulling in shipments of different components needed to produce the new iPhones, according to a report from DigiTimes. In years past, Apple released its latest iPhone lineup, alongside a new Apple Watch, during a September event at Apple Park....