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  • Unlocking New Cellphones to Become Illegal in the U.S.


    According to a new federal policy in the United States that is effective starting Saturday, it will become 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 but not to legacy devices purchased prior to that date. As noted by Tech News Daily:

    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 two use SIM cards from international carriers while traveling abroad without needing to purchase expensive international roaming packages from their domestic carrier. Users will still be able to 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. The SIM card slots on the Verizon iPhone 5 came 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 recently outlined decision 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.
    Previously, carriers such as AT&T already forbid unauthorized unlocking in their customer contracts but the clarification of DMCA policy with respect to unlocked will now make the issue a criminal offense. Although iPhone unlocked services have enjoyed a fair amount of popularity in the past, it appears the services will be unable to legally unlock any new devices for their customers, leaving only a pool of eligible legacy devices remaining.

    Source: Federal Register, Tech News Daily via MacRumors
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Unlocking New Cellphones to Become Illegal in the U.S. started by Akshay Masand View original post
    Comments 88 Comments
    1. braminc's Avatar
      braminc -
      Quote Originally Posted by danman2_2999 View Post
      First they took away large sodas... People said "mehh nobody needs that much soda." Then they want to take away our guns... people said "mehh nobody needs them." When the government starts deciding what we need and keeps us from having what we want, it's only a matter of time before they start taking away more and more rights. Nobody NEEDS a ferrari. Nobody NEEDS a cellphone. When are they going to take those from us? Oh they already are half way there with the cellphones..
      So that's the common denominator you found? Lack of need = govt ban?

      To the defenders of the phone companies. I agree partially that this is business and the way of the world, etc. However what people are forgetting, is the this very phone subsidy model is what ALLOWS iphones and galaxies to cost egregious amounts of money unlocked/unsubsidized. The margins on the iphones are ~ 2x as that of the ipad. Why? Well because the true price of the phone is mostly hidden behind that contract you sign without reading. If the subsidy model had never been introduced years ago, I can promise you an unlocked or locked iphone would cost much less than $650 new. Probably in the $350-$400 range. That would be their fair value.

      So to say that after they rip us off with their subsidy model, shame on us for ******** about further legal enforcement of that "scam", just isn't totally fair either. This law protects what is essentially a form of price-gouging in my opinion.
    1. Villebilly's Avatar
      Villebilly -
      Mr117, I'm all in favor of businesses being able to make money. But as I addressed earlier, which no one countered, is if I pay for my device outright ($650) why am I still subject to exorbitant fees from AT&T?
      You stating it isn't fair to carriers that we only pay $325 to break contract is stupid since that is about the amount they are subsidizing. It also doesn't consider the customer paid $200 to Apple and $36 to carrier already. You also aren't taking into account the fact that after two years of paying a higher rate on a subsidized phone they don't lower your rate - they keep over charging you and there is nothing you can do but go to another carrier.

      Again this is why I hope the Walmart method of paying up front becomes more popular but the carriers hate it.
    1. The6uest's Avatar
      The6uest -
      Quote Originally Posted by Carvensno View Post
      Typical f@#%ing government sticking there nose where it doesn't belong. Why should they give a damn, its our phone and can use it as we please!
      Amen
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      Quote Originally Posted by danman2_2999 View Post
      First they took away large sodas... People said "mehh nobody needs that much soda." Then they want to take away our guns... people said "mehh nobody needs them." When the government starts deciding what we need and keeps us from having what we want, it's only a matter of time before they start taking away more and more rights. Nobody NEEDS a ferrari. Nobody NEEDS a cellphone. When are they going to take those from us? Oh they already are half way there with the cellphones..
      One mayor (a rich businessman by the way, not a populist) banned buying large soda containers in one city (oh, and you can simply buy a second drink in the now-largest size and make yourself obese and rot your teeth that way). No one is taking away guns. If you actually read the proposals, the only ban would be on the selling of NEW high-capacity magazines and the selling of NEW guns that fit a certain description. No one is coming to your house to get your guns, whether they be hunting animal weapons OR hunting people weapons. Though I must say, if you need a thirty-shot magazine on your assault rifle, and body armor to go with it, you probably aren't going out to shoot whitetail (deer). The rest of your post makes no sense, unless you think that the government is hell-bent on taking over the population and putting us all under its absolute control. Sorta like Red Dawn, hmmm? THEN that body armor and assault rifle would come in handy, wouldn't they? Well, until an Abrams rolled over you or a drone took you out. And if you believe that stuff, then a rational discussion is probably out of the question.

      The government is not TAKING AWAY YOUR PHONES. You have to buy them from a privately-held company. You have to pay the fees attached to the purchase. Then you can use the phone. All the Librarian is saying is that if you buy a phone at a subsidized price you need to stay with the carrier you bought it from. Carriers are now (at least AT&T is) unlocking for free at the completion of your plan. If you want your own phone, buy a prepaid one and use that business model.

      As to the comment about business models, this is the one we have. If businesses are making money with it, the only way to stop it (other than to vote for populist politicians who will then change our laws to ban campaign financing and the power of lobbyists- you try getting in to see your representative without lots of money for a re-election run in your hand- and who will then create laws and regulations favoring the American people because they are no longer beholden to big business interests) is to vote with your pocketbook and not buy the stuff from these corporations in the first place. I boycott lots of businesses because of the way they treat their customers or employees. So far, to give a couple of examples, Walmart and Whole Foods don't seem to be feeling the pain of my boycott. Maybe because so many other people continue to shop there.

      "Mr117, I'm all in favor of businesses being able to make money. But as I addressed earlier, which no one countered, is if I pay for my device outright ($650) why am I still subject to exorbitant fees from AT&T?
      You stating it isn't fair to carriers that we only pay $325 to break contract is stupid since that is about the amount they are subsidizing. It also doesn't consider the customer paid $200 to Apple and $36 to carrier already. You also aren't taking into account the fact that after two years of paying a higher rate on a subsidized phone they don't lower your rate - they keep over charging you and there is nothing you can do but go to another carrier.

      Again this is why I hope the Walmart method of paying up front becomes more popular but the carriers hate it."

      I made no comments about early termination fees. I pay the same fee I've always paid now that my phone is unlocked. (Still with AT&T.) The fees for the iPhone are the same if you buy a locked or unlocked version. Or any other non-iPhone (smartphone) you run on the network of your carrier. All that we are paying "extra" for is a data fee, and I believe all carriers charge that. Activation fees? Don't like them, but, again, part of the cost of a phone. Again, if your don't like the business model, don't use it. I'm not defending it, other than to say that, if you buy something and sign a contract, you are saying that you will honor the contract. See above re how to change things (because posting here surely won't accomplish any changes).
    1. tridley68's Avatar
      tridley68 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Evaded View Post
      Which is why we have a clown for a president currently...
      Itotaly agree with your statement. we have a clown for a president currently have a great day.
    1. RoloDiva13's Avatar
      RoloDiva13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by buggsy2 View Post
      Yeah. So what? I'll pay their 2-year contract, but if I travel to say Europe, why shouldn't I be able to buy a SIM card from a local provider and use it in my unlocked phone? This is just more government overprotection of monied, corporate interests at our expense..
      Please re-read (or just plain READ) the terms of service before signing on the dotted line. Pretty sure these carriers state you're to use the phone domestically. If you want to use it abroad you play by their rules, which is paying out the nose for a roaming pkg. don't like it? Pay for your phone unsubsidized up front. Problem solved. However, what you're talking about sounds like getting it unlocked after paying the ETF? In that case you ARE free to go use another SIM...not sure what you mean here. How is that an issue?



      Quote Originally Posted by buggsy2 View Post
      So? They should raise the early termination fee then.
      Why? So you can b1tch about that, too? See above for 'resolution.'
    1. katheikia's Avatar
      katheikia -
      I don't understand what everyone is so upset about. Buy your phone at full unlocked price, and don't depend on the carrier for a subsidized price!!! Every company has to make money and profit. It's not illegal to unlock your phone, just not while your under contract with the company that gave it to you for less than 50% off!!!
    1. Jarolin Vargas's Avatar
      Jarolin Vargas -
      This is BS. But at least its only unlocking and not jailbreaking.
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      Quote Originally Posted by tridley68 View Post
      Itotaly agree with your statement. we have a clown for a president currently have a great day.
      Besides the fact that the current President can speak in complete sentences, as opposed to our last one, a President doesn't have anything to do with this discussion. Laws and regulations are created by members of Congress or independent agencies. If you don't like how carriers operate, your "beef" is with the members of Congress who don't respond to consumer complaints, and the FCC, which is an independent agency, and the Librarian of Congress, who does not answer to the President. How the President got pulled into this discussion is beyond me. Oh, and the election is over. He won. If you voted for someone else, you lost. Deal. I had to deal with the last ***clown for eight long years, while he started two wars he didn't pay for and ran the country into the ground while deregulating every business in America (which probably explains a bit about the discussion going on in this thread) and I wasn't crying about who won. It's America. A winner wins, we accept him or her for better or worse and, in the next election, choose again based on how we perceive things have gone. A majority perceived that he has done as well as possible. If you are in the minority, too bad. I was last time. America. Gotta love it. If you don't, go back to Russia (god, I love that line, so favored during the cold war. Of course, Russia is worse than America now, what with the businesses running the country. Ironic, isn't it?).
    1. szr's Avatar
      szr -
      Quote Originally Posted by spazturtle View Post
      Read the websites of most phone companies, you don't own the phone you just indefinitely lease it.
      I'm sorry, but just because a company writes a document doesn't make it fact. When you purchase something, when it is fully paid for, it is yours. Every basic and legal definition backups this notion up, as does the First Sale Doctrine and other constitutional clauses.
    1. spazturtle's Avatar
      spazturtle -
      Quote Originally Posted by szr View Post
      I'm sorry, but just because a company writes a document doesn't make it fact. When you purchase something, when it is fully paid for, it is yours. Every basic and legal definition backups this notion up, as does the First Sale Doctrine and other constitutional clauses.
      But you not purchasing it, you are leasing it, you aren't covered by sales laws as it was never sold. You agreed to a contract saying that you will give them x money and in return they will lend you z phone for a indefinite amount of time.
    1. mruk69's Avatar
      mruk69 -
      My iPhone 5 on AT&T is unlocked. That does not mean I am leaving them. I just don't want to be raped when I travel abroad. Folks welcome to the People's Republic of America.
    1. Gamemaster77's Avatar
      Gamemaster77 -
      Quote Originally Posted by spazturtle View Post
      But you not purchasing it, you are leasing it, you aren't covered by sales laws as it was never sold. You agreed to a contract saying that you will give them x money and in return they will lend you z phone for a indefinite amount of time.
      No, the phone is physically yours. You paid for the hardware.
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      You lease a car and try that logic.

      The issue is the object (which you control physically) versus the network (which they control access to). I would like to see a court case in which the idea that the phone is "leased" is adjudicated (fairly). But until that time comes, the sales slip you sign says that you are leasing the object. However, they surely aren't gonna come and get it from you. It's just legalese that suits them and their business model. You unlock and you won't go to jail. However, a company selling the unlock might face legal troubles after the grace period is up.

      Jailbreaking is now legal (thanks to the same Librarian you are all vilifying), but when it wasn't no one came after us. I showed my jailbroken phones many times to staff at the Apple store and no one ever said anything other than "how did you do that?" or "nice" or "can you tell me where to go to learn how to do that?" No one cared that it was done, or tried to take it.
    1. smooth22's Avatar
      smooth22 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Carvensno View Post
      Typical f@#%ing government sticking there nose where it doesn't belong. Why should they give a damn, its our phone and can use it as we please!
      I agree 1000% these phone corporations Probably paid off somebody in government...
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      Quote Originally Posted by smooth22 View Post
      I agree 1000% these phone corporations Probably paid off somebody in government...
      Every day. The best government money can buy. The word you are looking for is "lobbyist," which often entail a former congressperson now working for a corporation lobbying his/her former colleagues using money or favors to do the corporation's bidding.
      An excellent example is, during the start of George Bush's first term, **** (jeez, stupid auto censor!! Fine, Richard) Cheney inviting the oil industry in to write the "regulations" that would then go to Congress to be written into a bill that both sides of Congress would pass and then the President would sign. How do you like your $4.00 a gallon gas?

      Want to get rid of this stuff? Vote for people running for (or who are in) Congress that pledge to create lobbying and election reform. We've had these reforms several times in the past 15-20 years but for some reason they keep being overturned. Hmmmm, why do you think that happens? Bringing down the cost of running for election and forbidding former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists might be a good way to start. Make taking anything from anyone while you serve in Congress illegal and make running for office a paid government subsidy (everyone gets the same amount of money to run, use it up and that's all, folks), which might level the field a bit, too. It really is our government, we just have to pay attention, quit listening to people who manipulate our baser instincts, do our homework, and vote for better people. People get the government they deserve. If you are willing to go on a blog and complain about a phone subsidy cost but are unwilling to become engaged with reasonable politicians attempting to actually change the system (not fringe people who tell you they can make it better if they just refuse to pass anything the other side wants), this is the government you deserve. Your complaints go unheard because the people you vote for don't really (really!) care about you.
    1. DirkSwizzler's Avatar
      DirkSwizzler -
      Quote Originally Posted by spazturtle View Post
      But you not purchasing it, you are leasing it, you aren't covered by sales laws as it was never sold. You agreed to a contract saying that you will give them x money and in return they will lend you z phone for a indefinite amount of time.
      Then why did I pay sales tax on it?
    1. amoamare's Avatar
      amoamare -
      FLASHING / UNLOCKING WILL NOT BE ILLEGAL DAMN PEOPLE. It reverts to the same law it was 3 years ago, NO LAW. There is nothing forcing a carrier to have to unlock the device and there now isn't a law preventing a carrier to seek legal actions against people who do
      unlock there phone. This news media **** is just that ****ing stupid. All they did was revert the law they put in place 3 years ago PROTECTING the end user from service providers. Allowing them to unlock there phone by specifically stating it was legal. It has just been removed and reverting it back to the gray area its not illegal. It's still legal but there is nothing to protect you against virgin mobile or other carriers now.
      They have the right now to prosecute you if they so choose to.


      This was the same thing that happened to dealers buying virgin mobile phones in bulk and flashing them.
      Virgin mobile lost a ton of money on this and they were able to come up with a new legal action stating only 3 devices may be purchased at any 1 time but this heavily relayed on the stores to execute it and hardly any did.
      This now gives Virgin Mobile a chance to go after these heavy buyers who do not use the phones on there serivce
      hey subsidized the phone to sell at 19.99 because they will make there money back on the service, they can not make money back on that service if you never use the phone on there service.
      If you do the math, virign mobile on a avrg users gets there money back for that phone in less then 4 weeks

      Quote Originally Posted by spazturtle; View Post
      But you not purchasing it, you are leasing it, you aren't covered by sales laws as it was never sold. You agreed to a contract saying that you will give them x money and in return they will lend you z phone for a indefinite amount of time.
      This statement is wrong. You only lease the phone for a period of no longer then 6 months. If you are still in service with them after 6 months the phone belongs to you as you have paid the lease term up in full.

      When you buy a subsidized phone on contract you are agreeing that you will be in contract for xx amount of time. 2 Years, You are also agreeing that you will not cancel within a 6 month time period and if you do that you will
      A) Pay the cancellation fee.
      B) Return the device back to the provider / or pay the remainder of the device off.

      If you cancel after the 6 month period you either
      A) Pay a cancellation fee.
      B) Do have to pay its based on what other factors they choose or thats in your contract.


      Stating you don't own the phone is false, you lease the phone for a period of no longer the 6 months unless you do different contract that states other wise. After the 6 month period the device because lawfully your's.

      So you should know what you are talking about before stating. I really hate when people don't full understand and try to argue ****.
    1. smooth22's Avatar
      smooth22 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mr117 View Post
      Every day. The best government money can buy. The word you are looking for is "lobbyist," which often entail a former congressperson now working for a corporation lobbying his/her former colleagues using money or favors to do the corporation's bidding.
      An excellent example is, during the start of George Bush's first term, **** (jeez, stupid auto censor!! Fine, Richard) Cheney inviting the oil industry in to write the "regulations" that would then go to Congress to be written into a bill that both sides of Congress would pass and then the President would sign. How do you like your $4.00 a gallon gas?

      Want to get rid of this stuff? Vote for people running for (or who are in) Congress that pledge to create lobbying and election reform. We've had these reforms several times in the past 15-20 years but for some reason they keep being overturned. Hmmmm, why do you think that happens? Bringing down the cost of running for election and forbidding former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists might be a good way to start. Make taking anything from anyone while you serve in Congress illegal and make running for office a paid government subsidy (everyone gets the same amount of money to run, use it up and that's all, folks), which might level the field a bit, too. It really is our government, we just have to pay attention, quit listening to people who manipulate our baser instincts, do our homework, and vote for better people. People get the government they deserve. If you are willing to go on a blog and complain about a phone subsidy cost but are unwilling to become engaged with reasonable politicians attempting to actually change the system (not fringe people who tell you they can make it better if they just refuse to pass anything the other side wants), this is the government you deserve. Your complaints go unheard because the people you vote for don't really (really!) care about you.
      And the same government you deserve as well...
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      Depends on how you mean that. I've spent a very long life voting for people I thought might have the best interests of the average citizen in mind, including putting my time and money where my heart is. Rather than voting for and supporting neanderthals and sycophants who offer only fear, poverty and war.

      As Americans, we ARE our government, because we live in a country that is run by the people we elect. So all we can do is try to elect leaders who will take OUR needs into account rather than ONLY the needs of big money, big business, big oil and big war. To not do so is to give up. If you give up, you really have no say in the matter, because you have removed yourself from electoral politics. You are trusting to fate.

      So, to respond to your statement, I hope I can help, with my vote, to elect the government that we all deserve. That cares about us, as a people. All of us, not just the rich and powerful people.