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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. AndrewP15's Avatar
      AndrewP15 -
      How can they catch you ?? and what is the consequence for it ??
    1. NewdestinyX's Avatar
      NewdestinyX -
      Quote Originally Posted by xboxbml View Post
      What I don't understand is in all these online reports, it's saying the Librarian of Congress passed this law...I don't see how a librarian can pass any law...congress or not...did I miss something?...
      The "Library" (not Librarian) of Congress is a government agency that governs copyright law among other things. Educate yourself, please.. Jes' sayin'...
    1. King_O_Hill's Avatar
      King_O_Hill -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmay227 View Post
      This is not retro active, any phone purchased before the 26th can still be unlocked. and any phone purchased after the 26th can not unless it is by your carrier. some carriers like verizon are starting to sell their phone unlocked and have stated so publicly.
      Finally, someone that actually reads and understands this. Kudos bro!!!

      @Newd
      I'm with you here bro!

      Librarian of congress - now that is funny right there! What a sad state this country is in when people didn't even realize what this is and the fact that it was repeated over and over. Put down the beer and read a book once in a while. Holy S, I feel dumber for even replying to this display of lunacy.

      Someone save this country please!
    1. NewdestinyX's Avatar
      NewdestinyX -
      Quote Originally Posted by King_O_Hill View Post
      @Newd
      I'm with you here bro!

      Librarian of congress - now that is funny right there! What a sad state this country is in when people didn't even realize what this is and the fact that it was repeated over and over. Put down the beer and read a book once in a while. Holy S, I feel dumber for even replying to this display of lunacy.

      Someone save this country please!
      It's slipping away from us fast, King. Not that I necessarily lean right, politically speaking, but if you ever watch the Bill O'Reilly program on FNC there's a segment regularly called "Watter's World" where Jesse Watters, O'Reillys producer, goes out on the street and asks the average American young person (17-25) these very basic history questions (Jay Leno has a similar segment less occasionally). And the young folks almost exclusively come up with the most outlandishly stupid answers or haven't got a clue what he's talking about. It's actually so sad it's funny, but more sad. I call it the "Facebook obsessed texting generation". Unless it's fast immediate information they're just not interested most of them. But don't get me started. Don't want to be considered an "ageist". LOL!!

      "Librarian of Congress"!!!?! LMAO..., That's been making me chuckle for the last 24 hours. Great stuff!! (But SO sad)...
    1. Gamemaster77's Avatar
      Gamemaster77 -
      Quote Originally Posted by NewdestinyX View Post
      "Librarian of Congress"!!!?! LMAO..., That's been making me chuckle for the last 24 hours. Great stuff!! (But SO sad)...
      Librarian of Congress - the head of the Library of Congress
      Currently it's James Billington at 83 years old.
    1. rasputin007's Avatar
      rasputin007 -
      Article on Unlocking of Phones

      Unlocking your new smartphone is now illegal: What you need to know | Digital Trends

      I hardly ever read an article with such inconsistency as this one.
      First it says
      Because unlocking a phone requires making changes to its firmware – software that is copyrighted and owned by your carrier – which would be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
      saying that changes to the software (aka firmware) would violate the copyright of the carrier that owns the software as

      ... we cell phone owners do not actually “own” the software running our phones. Instead, we are only “licensing” this software – a key difference – which means that we don’t have a right to alter that software. This also played a role in the Librarian’s decision.
      OK, right. The hardware is ours, but the software is just licensed from the carrier.
      However further down the article it says

      Jailbreaking allows you to run apps on your device that you couldn’t with an un-jailbroken phone, such as iOS apps that are not available through the iTunes App Store. But jailbreaking does not let you switch to a different carrier. Also, jailbreaking is still completely legal under the DMCA.
      Now, in order to jailbreak an iPhone it requires changes to the software.
      So in one case it is illegal to make changes to the software (unlock), but in another case it is legal to make changes to the software (jailbreak).

      YEAH RIGHT!

      On another note this new ruling could be transferred to other gadgets like laptops. You buy a new laptop with Windows 8 pre-installed, but you prefer to use Linux. According to the above ruling it could be argued that you can not replace Windows 8 with another OS, as you would violate the licensing agreement with Microsoft which you automatically entered as you bought the new laptop.
      Or Microsoft could sue you for installing any program (e.g. OpenSouce software) as that would make changes to the licensed Windows 8.

      This ruling is utter male bovine feces and I am totally convinced that the carrier lobby had their finger/money in this to get such a ruling.
    1. King_O_Hill's Avatar
      King_O_Hill -
      Very good point Ras!
    1. NewdestinyX's Avatar
      NewdestinyX -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gamemaster77 View Post
      Librarian of Congress - the head of the Library of Congress
      Currently it's James Billington at 83 years old.
      You know darn well the people using that term were slipping up... And didn't know about James..

      Quote Originally Posted by rasputin007 View Post
      This ruling is utter male bovine feces and I am totally convinced that the carrier lobby had their finger/money in this to get such a ruling.
      Exactly right, Ras. No case would ever hold up in court. Utter nonsense. I unlocked my ip5 on January 27 just to 'spit at' this law. It was just as easy as on January 26.