U.S. Kills Unauthorized Mobile Phone Unlocks

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A change to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act means that come Saturday some smartphone owners will be considered criminals if they unlock their mobile device without carrier authorization. Once the new DMCA interpretation goes into effect, mobile devices purchased on or after January 26 must be unlocked for use on other carriers through official channels instead of third-party hacks, and anyone that violates that rule could potentially find themselves in court.

New DMCA change puts unauthorized smartphone unlockers in hot waterNew DMCA change puts unauthorized smartphone unlockers in hot water

Unlocking frees mobile phones from use on a single cell service, and is a handy feature for users that travel internationally since they can buy local SIM cards to avoid expensive roaming fees. It's also nice when selling a used iPhone since it frees up the smartphone for carriers such as T-Mobile instead of limiting it to just AT&T.

In the Librarian of Congress' ruling, it stated,

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.

Apple and its carrier partners do offer unlocked iPhones, and the cell service providers also offer unlock options for users that meet certain requirements -- typically having completed the terms of their service contract, or at least completing a set percentage of their contract.

The change in the DCMA policy doesn't, however, stop anyone from unlocking their mobile phone outside of carrier channels and it isn't likely that those third-party hacks will disappear. Federal agents won't likely start roaming the streets looking for unlocked mobile phones, either, but knowing the potential for legal action is there may keep at least some people from unlocking their iPhones or other smartphones before selling them.

[Thanks to Tech News Daily for the heads up.]

The Mac Observer Spin The Mac Observer Spin is how we show you what our authors think about a news story at quick glance. Read More →

When smartphone unlocks are outlawed only outlaws will have unlocked smartphones.

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If I am not mistaken, you cannot unlock your phone while you are under contract. Once your contract is up, you can unlock it and even sell it if you want. You would be under no further obligation to your carrier.

Can anyone clarify this?


Dearly hoping there will be an open sourced hardware phone by my next phone.


There already is.
Open Moko

John Dingler, artist

DMCA is a superb example of what Rightwingers—and in instances like this I too—regard as “big gub’mnt characterized by its intrusive, freedom-hating, oppressive laws.

Even CA. Gov. Jerry Brown noted that there are (and this is my interpretation) too many “soccer mom” type laws intended to protect everyone, everytime, everywhere from any uncertainty with the most detailed, controlling provisions treating adults like children.


This is protects the carriers, not the public. It’s corporate welfare. The DMCA should be examined, and possibly repealed.  Once your contract is up, the carriers should be required to unlock your phone.


Dang, “is” got left behind while rephrasing. When will we be able to edit our posts?


Can’t you demand that they unlock your phone once your contract is up?
I don’t own a smartphone so I don’t know, but it seems like you should be able to have the carrier unlock the device you now own after your contract is fulfilled.

Paul Goodwin

I agree ibuck. This is so wrong I can’t find words strong enough..

And Jeff, I love the Mac Observer spin on it. HahahaHaha


Can’t get my head around this.  Can they actually criminalize unlocking a phone?  Someone needs to get this into a US District Court, pronto.

Jim Terwiliger

Part of me is very happy with this. It shows that our gov is owned by big corporations


You can do something about it.
Link to whitehouse.gov petition and FB Link to Share with Friends.

Denise Lee


There’s still time! 10 days left to get 100,000 minimum signatures.. At present, there is 66,000 sigs.. Please pass this petition link around to help make a difference! And, btw you don’t have to reside in the USA to sign, and if u need to create an account u don’t have to put any identifying info in it

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