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Thread: White House Petition to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking Gains Steam

  1. #1
    MMi Staff Writer Michael Essany's Avatar
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    Default White House Petition to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking Gains Steam


    As a result of a controversial recent change in DMCA policy, the act of unlocking new cell phones is illegal.

    Last fall, the Register of Copyrights at the Library of Congress determined that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be permissible. A 90-day window, which was established for people to still buy a phone and unlock it, closed at the end of January.

    Consequently, it is now against the law for certain mobile phone owners to unlock their devices for use on other carriers. Not surprisingly, the blowback from this sweeping revision has been strong - so strong, in fact, that a White House petition has been drafted to reverse the questionable policy change that outlaws unlocking newer cell phones.

    Although similar online petitions targeting a number of issues have had hit-or-miss results over the years, the collection of 100,000 signatures of more mandates a response from the White House. As of this writing, the petition has secured 68,470 signatures. 31,530 more John Hancocks are needed before the February 23, 2013 deadline.

    "We ask that the White House ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal," the petition creator writes.

    To learn more about the petition or to sign it, click here.

    Source: Whitehouse.gov

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    Hunter926 (02-15-2013)

  3. #2
    Darn right it should be overturned. More and more loss of freedom in this country. "The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen".
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  5. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by NewdestinyX View Post
    Darn right it should be overturned.
    ++. As it stands, this law singles out and punishes international travelers. The US carriers charge outrageously high per minute rates both to make calls and to receive calls abroad (even in those countries where incoming calls are free with the local carriers). I have no problem with carriers enforcing a reasonable ETF to cover any losses from their initial subsidy, but this is double dipping. That unelected bureaucrat (aka Librarian of Congress) must have been smoking some seriously good stuff when they thought phone unlocking (or tablet jailbreaking, for that matter) was something that people needed to be put behind bars for. Where is the democracy here?

    Michael - thanks so much for posting this!
    Last edited by csglinux; 02-15-2013 at 12:49 PM.

  6. #4
    I don't understand why they made it illegal. It's a persons choice what carrier to use. That's like forcing people to not have abortions. It's their choice.

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    Livin the iPhone Life tudtran's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by csglinux View Post
    ++. As it stands, this law singles out and punishes international travelers. The US carriers charge outrageously high per minute rates both to make calls and to receive calls abroad (even in those countries where incoming calls are free with the local carriers). I have no problem with carriers enforcing a reasonable ETF to cover any losses from their initial subsidy, but this is double dipping. That unelected bureaucrat (aka Librarian of Congress) must have been smoking some seriously good stuff when they thought phone unlocking (or tablet jailbreaking, for that matter) was something that people needed to be put behind bars for. Where is the democracy here?

    Michael - thanks so much for posting this!
    Totally Agree.

  9. #6
    I hope it stays the way it is. Unlocking should be illegal while under contract. If you want a unlocked phone buy it that way and pay full price. Don't make someone else pick up the tab for you..

  10. #7
    get your unlocking outside the US, that simple.

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    kosher1 (02-15-2013)

  12. #8
    Ask a unlocking service outside USA to unlock your iphone as we do around 20 aday for AT&T
    3gs iPhone 32gb-Jailbroken factory unlocked
    iPhone 4 jailbroken & factory unlocked

  13. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Hunter926 View Post
    I hope it stays the way it is. Unlocking should be illegal while under contract. If you want a unlocked phone buy it that way and pay full price. Don't make someone else pick up the tab for you..
    Hunter926, nobody is picking up anybody else's tab. While you're still under contract you either pay the ETF, or you continue to make those monthly payments - irrespective of whether your phone is unlocked or not and irrespective of whether you even use it or not.

  14. #10
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    "As a result of a controversial recent change in DMCA policy, the act of unlocking new cell phones is illegal." This is inaccurate. The actual issue is that unofficial software-based unlocks like ultrasn0w are no longer exempt from the DMCA for newer devices (purchased after January 26, 2013). This means that they are in a legal grey area, neither clearly legal nor clearly illegal.

    Official carrier unlocks are fine, and the legality of third-party IMEI unlocks is probably not affected by the DMCA or its exemptions (but could be dubious under other laws).

    See the Copyright Office's ruling on the DMCA exemption (pages 16-20), and see the EFF's article providing clarifications.

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    Anthony Bouchard (02-15-2013)

  16. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Hunter926 View Post
    I hope it stays the way it is. Unlocking should be illegal while under contract. If you want a unlocked phone buy it that way and pay full price. Don't make someone else pick up the tab for you..
    Should people that travel overseas to a country that allows cell phone freedom be forced by the carrier to pay extremely high roaming rates? There are a lot of countries that you simply pop in a sim card and make calls.

    The simple solution is to unlock phones -or allow- phones to be unlocked by individuals or business.

  17. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by brittag View Post
    "As a result of a controversial recent change in DMCA policy, the act of unlocking new cell phones is illegal." This is inaccurate. The actual issue is that unofficial software-based unlocks like ultrasn0w are no longer exempt from the DMCA for newer devices (purchased after January 26, 2013). This means that they are in a legal grey area, neither clearly legal nor clearly illegal.

    Official carrier unlocks are fine, and the legality of third-party IMEI unlocks is probably not affected by the DMCA or its exemptions (but could be dubious under other laws).

    See the Copyright Office's ruling on the DMCA exemption (pages 16-20), and see the EFF's article providing clarifications.
    I read those a while ago and I will need to disagree with your conclusions. Wishful thinking. But I don't want a debate. Everyone can read for themselves. I wish it were as simple and with as much gray as you've concluded.
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  18. #13
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    Hopefully we can agree that it's not as simple as "it's illegal". Here's what saurik said on this grey area issue recently:

    Short version:

    I say that, because it simply isn't clear that the DMCA actually applies to the case of unlocking cell phones. It wasn't clear six years ago, it wasn't clear three years ago, and it is even less clear now after the exemption for unlocking cell phones has expired. Yet, we have all of this rhetoric about "legal vs. illegal".
    Long version:

    I want to return, however, for a second to this "does the DMCA even apply in this case" question, as I believe it to be of key important here. Four years ago, when the EFF first attempted to get the exemption on "jailbreaking" (not unlocking) cell phones, the opposition included Apple. Last year, for video game consoles, the opposition included Sony.

    Seven years ago, when the Wireless Alliance managed to win their requested exemption on unlocking cell phones, there were no companies that had a stake in the matter who bothered to take part. In fact, this was specifically highlighted by the Library of Congress in their finalized recommendation. Motorola? They really just didn't seem to care.

    > Objections to the proposed exemption were expressed by owners of copyrighted works other than the firmware to which the proponents desired access: The Joint Reply Commenters expressed concern about the potential effect of an exemption on separate copyrighted works that are downloaded and stored on handsets, such as ringtones, games, applications, photos and videos.

    Yes: the people who actually had a problem with this were concerned with software piracy, not cell phone unlocking at all. These same "Joint Reply Commenters" simply tend to argue against all DMCA exemptions, and thereby their arguments seem to always be taken with the proverbial "grain of salt" as to whether their issues even apply in these matters.

    These Join Reply Commenters did not lead with that argument, though; no: their "killer argument" was that the DMCA didn't apply to these matters, and that while they seemed to even agree that the business models of carriers was troublesome, that the correct forum to address these issues was not the DMCA exemption process, but maybe the FCC.

    > At the outset, submitters have not demonstrated a causal link between 1201(a)(1)(A) and the substantial adverse impact on access to copyrighted material which they allege. The threshold question, of course, is whether it would violate that provision for mobile phone users to do what the submitters advocate, and even whether anyone other than themselves has claimed that it is or might be a violation of 1201(a)(1)(A). A close review of the submission itself does not dispel doubts on this issue, but rather reinforces them.

    That's right: the only group in opposition of an exemption from the DMCA for the unlocking of cell phones didn't believe that if you attempted to use the DMCA in this matter, you would actually have an argument or be able to make a case. And, in fact, according to the OP, Motorola tried this argument in 2005, and gave up when presented with minimal resistance.

    Meanwhile, the argument is even less clear today. A couple years ago, there was a case MGE vs. GE (yes, with General Electric as the defendant) wherein GE had come to own a company that had been doing unauthorized field service on a number of backup power units constructed by MGE, and in so doing was bypassing the devices' software protections.

    This seems to be one of the few really big cases to go remotely high up that actually tests just how much power the DMCA has to keep you from doing things that are quite largely unrelated to copyright, such as unlocking a cell phone, and no less with GE as the defendant on "our side" (yay!). The Harvard Journal of Law & Technology published a digest.

    > The Fifth Circuit held that the DMCA’s provisions apply to protections designed to prevent infringement of copyrighted material and not protection from mere access to that material.

    > In so holding, the court limits the DMCA to those cases where a defendant circumvents a protection that is designed to prevent infringement of copyrighted material.

    (Note: I have yet to go through all of the actual court opinion from that case; I have it on my todo list, but as I tend to have my hands full with other things, I haven't had the time to do so yet. That is why I am citing the Journal summary, rather than the actual opinion.)

    Yes: this means that in this court's opinion, the DMCA couldn't actually apply in this situation anyway, not that we really expected it to at this point ;P. (Sadly, it is my understanding that the Fifth Circuit doesn't set a very far-reaching precedent; it is still valuable to at least part of our country, though. I would love to hear more about that from those "in the know".)
    Last edited by brittag; 02-15-2013 at 06:31 PM.

  19. #14
    My iPhone is a Part of Me JazJon's Avatar
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    Signed and facebook walled it!

  20. #15
    How about a petition for Apple to fix this crappy 6.0/6.1 IOS. Since 6.0 this has been a joke/ the worst crap apple has ever put out. 5.0 was pretty good. This 6.1 has even got the jailbreak were it sux.

  21. #16
    I think locking cell phones should be made illegal and require all carriers to simply unlock any and all phones (automatically where possible and upon request when doing so automatically isn't possible).

  22. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by cmwade77 View Post
    I think locking cell phones should be made illegal and require all carriers to simply unlock any and all phones (automatically where possible and upon request when doing so automatically isn't possible).
    Ah - thou art a "dreamer". In the real world - companies need to make $ to make us better products. Sheesh.. these kids today.....

  23. #18
    eBay has started banning Unlock sites like UnlockFusion and SwiftUnlocks. They're reaching out to their former clients by sending emails. It was only a matter of time.

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