White House Petition Lobbies to Make Cell Phone Unlocking Legal

As of January 26, it is illegal for U.S. mobile phone users to unlock newly purchased cell phones without express permission from their cell phone carriers. Cell phone unlocking used to be possible as part of an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), but the exception ended following a ruling by the Library of Congress's Copyright Office in October of 2012.

Sina Khanifar, co-founder of OpenSignal, is protesting the new law with a whitehouse.gov petition calling for the decision to be rescinded. In 2004, Khanifar started Cell-Unlock.com, a business centered around unlocking mobile phones.

cellphonepetition
The site led to a cease and desist letter from Motorola, which was successfully nullified by the founder of Stanford's Cyberlaw Clinic, Jennifer Granick, who went on to lobby for the now-defunct DMCA exemption for unlocking phones.

As Khanifar mentions in his petition, the loss of the exemption hinders mobile phone users who wish to unlock their phones for use abroad and it also devalues the devices.

Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad. It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full.

The Libraran noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked.

Khanifar needs approximately 13,000 additional signatures on his petition, which ends on February 23, to receive a formal White House response. The White House has a policy of issuing a response to petitions that garner at least 100,000 signatures. The signatures do not guarantee a reversal of the policy, but they will ensure that the issue is officially addressed.

Though cell phone unlocking is now illegal on an individual basis for phones purchased after January 26, 2013, users are still able to have phones unlocked through carriers. Unlocked cell phones can also be purchased from carriers at unsubsidized prices.

Popular Stories

Apple WWDC24 Apple Intelligence hero 240610

Apple Explains iPhone 15 Pro Requirement for Apple Intelligence

Wednesday June 19, 2024 4:48 am PDT by
With iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia, Apple is introducing a new personalized AI experience called Apple Intelligence that uses on-device, generative large-language models to enhance the user experience across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. These new AI features require Apple's latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max models to work, while only Macs and iPads with M1 or later chips will...
Apple Vision Pro 2 Feature 2

Apple Reportedly Suspends Work on Vision Pro 2

Tuesday June 18, 2024 8:17 am PDT by
Apple has suspended work on the second-generation Vision Pro headset to singularly focus on a cheaper model, The Information reports. Apple was widely believed to have plans to divide its Vision product line into two models, with one "Pro" model and one lower-cost standard model. The company is said to have been deprioritizing the next Vision Pro headset over the past year, gradually...
M4 Real Feature Red

M4 MacBook Pro Models Expected to Launch in Late 2024

Tuesday June 18, 2024 10:50 am PDT by
MacBook Pro models with an M4 chip are expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2024, according to display analyst Ross Young. In a tweet for subscribers, Young said that panel shipments for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models are set to begin in the third quarter of 2024, which suggests a launch toward the end of the year. Apple started its M4 chip refresh in May with the launch...
iPhone 16 Pro Max Generic Feature 2

5 Biggest Changes Rumored for iPhone 16 Pro Max

Wednesday June 19, 2024 5:00 am PDT by
Given Apple's rumored plan to add an all-new high-end tier to its iPhone 17 series in 2025, this could be the year for Apple to bring its boldest "Pro Max" model to the table — the kind of iPhone 16 upgrade that stands tall above its siblings, both figuratively and literally. If you have been holding out for the iPhone 16 Pro Max, here are five of the biggest changes rumored to be coming...
Apple Intelligence General Feature

Apple Intelligence Features Not Coming to European Union at Launch Due to DMA

Friday June 21, 2024 9:44 am PDT by
Apple today said that European customers will not get access to the Apple Intelligence, iPhone Mirroring, and SharePlay Screen Sharing features that are coming to the iPhone, iPad, and Mac this September due to regulatory issues related to the Digital Markets Act. In a statement to Financial Times, Apple said that there will be a delay as it works to figure out how to make the new...
2022 back to school apple feature

Apple's 2024 Back to School Sale Launching This Week

Monday June 17, 2024 12:27 pm PDT by
Apple will launch its annual Back to School promotion for university students in the United States and Canada this week, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Apple's back to school sales provide students with a free Apple gift card when purchasing a Mac or an iPad, and this year's promotion could help Apple push the new M2 iPad Air and M4 iPad Pro models. Last year, Apple offered U.S....

Top Rated Comments

Shanpdx Avatar
148 months ago
Govt cares about the Corporation. they do not care about people!. what is new?
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
objc Avatar
148 months ago
If you've paid it off, it's yours. How is it that a telecom company can tell you what network you can use YOUR device with?
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WildCowboy Avatar
148 months ago
Aw. So cute... does anyone believe these "petitions" are going anywhere aside from in the trash?

Well, the point is that if it gets to 100,000 signatures, the government under its own rules will have to respond. Now, whether they'll actually say anything in their response is another matter.

But they did come out firmly against building a Death Star, so there's that.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
leon44 Avatar
148 months ago
I'll never understand America and its 'freedom'
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Daalseth Avatar
148 months ago
Wrong Target

What should be ILLEGAL is locking phones at all.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Codyak Avatar
148 months ago
I already went around AT&T to get my phone unlocked for overseas, but signed this anyway. The fact an 83 year old Reagan appointee was the final say in this blows my mind, half the people over 65 I know barely understand how to turn a phone on or off.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)