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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. quidam_brujah's Avatar
      quidam_brujah -
      Quote Originally Posted by mr117 View Post
      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).
      If only more posters here could rub a couple of neurons together and comprehend the responses to their idiotic posts. I mean, I guess their first post is just suffering from a lack of knowledge. However, subsequent posts are definitely idiotic.

      Thanks for this review on what is NOT HAPPENING in this country.

      As for what is... Yeah... When you sign a contract for something you are agreeing to what's in the contract. If you don't agree, then don't sign the contract. Time to put on your 'big boy pants', kids, get yourself a little education and do a little reading of that cr@p before you sign it. Sheesh.

      And if you don't understand it, you have essentially two choices: (a)don't sign it or (b) hire someone to explain it to you [lawyer]. If this is too much to ask, I'm guessing you've never purchased a home. And if you have, maybe you were smart enough to get one of those wonderful subprime mortgages wherein you verified your own income.

      Come on, so-called 'Libertarians', 'Galt up or shut up.'
    1. moomoochoo's Avatar
      moomoochoo -
      What if I hack my phone with a carrier that allows it then move to a carrier that doesn't allow it? I'd be stupid to do it, but all the same it could happen.
    1. Cardiac's Avatar
      Cardiac -
      Tell you what. Lower the cost on some of these dumb-phones and you can keep it locked. However, if I spend my hard earned money on a two, three, or four hundred dollar phone imma do what ever the f*&k I wanna do with it dipshit!! IMHO
    1. romeo_herman's Avatar
      romeo_herman -
      Ha..Ha...ha...Luckily I already unlocked all my iDevice, included my i5.
      But however we still can unlock it at outside U.S.
      Attachment 619884
    1. Gamemaster77's Avatar
      Gamemaster77 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mr117 View Post
      You lease a car and try that logic.
      That is a bad analogy. It's more along the lines of buying a house. As long as you continue paying your mortgage, you can do whatever you want to that house and no one could stop you.
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      lease |lēs|
      noun
      a contract by which one party conveys land, property, services, etc., to another for a specified time, usually in return for a periodic payment.

      Note: "specified time." The implication is that a lease runs out, and the item is returned to the writer of the lease. As in leasing a car. Although you CAN pay a (large) fee and the car does become yours at the end of the lease. A mortgage does not operate in that manner. You pay it off and the house is yours. This is where I think the argument for the carriers falls apart: they don't require you to return the item at the end of the lease, and the phone does become yours. As I said, I'd like to see someone take this to court, as I don't think a fair hearing would result in favor of the carrier.
    1. Gamemaster77's Avatar
      Gamemaster77 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mr117 View Post
      lease |lēs|
      noun
      a contract by which one party conveys land, property, services, etc., to another for a specified time, usually in return for a periodic payment.

      Note: "specified time." The implication is that a lease runs out, and the item is returned to the writer of the lease. As in leasing a car. Although you CAN pay a (large) fee and the car does become yours at the end of the lease. A mortgage does not operate in that manner. You pay it off and the house is yours. This is where I think the argument for the carriers falls apart: they don't require you to return the item at the end of the lease, and the phone does become yours. As I said, I'd like to see someone take this to court, as I don't think a fair hearing would result in favor of the carrier.
      I agree with you there. I doubt that it would be upheld in court. The carriers say a lot of stuff that they can't legally do. Just because its on a contract, doesn't mean they are allowed to do that.
    1. itsjustlenny's Avatar
      itsjustlenny -
      I understand the leasing term being used here but technically they say hey if you buy this phone and use OUR service for 2 years instead of paying full price we will discount it. Lets say 6 months down the line I want to unlock my phone because I just want a different one but still keep my service then it's MY phone. And I can sell it if I want. As long as I keep my 2 year contract in tact then it shouldn't matter what I do with MY phone.
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      Say after six months you want a different phone. You buy (at an unsubsidized price) a new phone and have the service transferred to your new one. Is that what you are saying? Because yes, the old phone is yours, but now you are paying the unsub price for the new one to cover the cost of the old one. So you have the phone (both, actually), and I suppose you could get the old one unlocked and use it with a different carrier. Pricey way to do things.
    1. itsjustlenny's Avatar
      itsjustlenny -
      Quote Originally Posted by mr117 View Post
      Say after six months you want a different phone. You buy (at an unsubsidized price) a new phone and have the service transferred to your new one. Is that what you are saying? Because yes, the old phone is yours, but now you are paying the unsub price for the new one to cover the cost of the old one. So you have the phone (both, actually), and I suppose you could get the old one unlocked and use it with a different carrier. Pricey way to do things.
      I'll give you a good example. I bought my iPhone 5 (preordered) with a 2 year contract. For argument sake lets say I know (3 months into my 2 year contract) I want to sell my iPhone and buy a samsung galaxy s3 but still keep my 2 year agreement fulfilled. Now according to this new law since the phone isn't mine I can't unlock it and sell it. Back to your car lease analogy if I WANTED to sell the leased car it's ok with the leasing company as long as they get what the car is worth. It's totally doable. But not in the case of my iPhone. That where I see the problem.
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      I think you would need to go to the carrier's store and buy another phone from it. At that point, it might be workable. Or the clerk might just say, too bad, you have to wait until the plan expires.

      Keep in mind that I am not FOR the lease idea. I am explaining it. I think it's probably illegal on the face of it. However, if you pays your money, you takes your chances.

      Buy an unlocked phone when you purchase it originally and Bob's your uncle. Otherwise, looks like they hold the cards at this point.
    1. Koinonia's Avatar
      Koinonia -
      Nevermind
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      Story ays: "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."

      Nothing there about the carrier unlocking it after your plan runs out. A 3rd party unlocker is not the carrier. That's the point of this whole thread.
    1. itsjustlenny's Avatar
      itsjustlenny -
      Quote Originally Posted by mr117 View Post
      I think you would need to go to the carrier's store and buy another phone from it. At that point, it might be workable. Or the clerk might just say, too bad, you have to wait until the plan expires.

      Keep in mind that I am not FOR the lease idea. I am explaining it. I think it's probably illegal on the face of it. However, if you pays your money, you takes your chances.

      Buy an unlocked phone when you purchase it originally and Bob's your uncle. Otherwise, looks like they hold the cards at this point.
      I see what you're saying. What I'm curious about Is technically wouldn't this hurt the carriers more than help? I mean you're forcing a lot of people to buy unlocked phones from now on and therefore not guaranteed that you'll stay with them for the next 2 years. So in that sense you'll be losing some people who would otherwise lock in to a 3 year contract.
    1. mr117's Avatar
      mr117 -
      If that becomes the case, they would change it. But the cost of an unlocked phone is so high that I doubt many people go for it- at least not enough of them to matter to the carrier's bottom line.
    1. Gamemaster77's Avatar
      Gamemaster77 -
      You would think the head of something (The Library of Congress) dealing with something so modern wouldn't be 83 years old. :/
    1. szr's Avatar
      szr -
      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.
      When I purchased any of my phones, nowhere was it stated that I was leasing it. If you paid it full up front, then you have purchased it. If you got one at the subsidized price, then when your contract is up, your device is paid for, and again it is yours.

      If it was actually leased (by any definition of the term, legal or otherwise), you'd be obligated to return the product at a certain point in time, such as when leasing a car (you return it at the end of the term.) Furthermore, leasing requires a specific contract that BOTH parties have to be aware of and agree to, and not something you can just quietly hide in a wireless service contract, especially when you consider that the purchase of the device itself is ultimately between you and the maker, regardless of middlemen carriers or vendors. When you buy any iPhone from AT&T, Verizon, etc, it's Apple that's made a sale in the end.

      A device such as an iPhone, Android phone, etc, falls into the latter category. Any one who tells you otherwise is ought right deceiving you, plain and simple. Not everyone on high it telling you the truth. No EULA (such as Apple's, Google's, etc) can just magically turn a purchase into a lease, either. Again, that requires a specific agreement. That phone is yours, period. Once it's paid for, it doesn't belong to your carrier/vendor, it doesn't belong to it's maker. It belongs to you alone.
    1. szr's Avatar
      szr -
      Quote Originally Posted by mr117 View Post
      Say after six months you want a different phone. You buy (at an unsubsidized price) a new phone and have the service transferred to your new one. Is that what you are saying? Because yes, the old phone is yours, but now you are paying the unsub price for the new one to cover the cost of the old one.
      If you paid full price for the second (newer) phone, then it's fully bought and paid for. You still have the service contract from the time you got the old phone, and thus still paying for that service and remainder of the old device's cost. So even though you can sell the old device, you're still technically paying for it through your service contract (it doesn't matter if you actually poses the device, you're still paying just the same as you would if you had it.) So in the end, you'd be paying for two devices.
    1. cmay227's Avatar
      cmay227 -
      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.
    1. xboxbml's Avatar
      xboxbml -
      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?...