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Unlocking cellphones becomes illegal Saturday

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The clock to unlock a new mobile phone is running out.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 a phone frees it from restrictions that keep the device from working on more than one carrier's network, allowing it run on other networks that use the same wireless standard. This can be useful to international travellers who need their phones to work on different networks. Other people just like the freedom of being able to switch carriers as they please.The new rule against unlocking phones won't be a problem for everybody, though. For example, Verizon's iPhone 5 comes out of the box already unlocked, and AT&T will unlock a phone once it is out of contract.You can also pay full-price for a phone, not the discounted price that comes with a two-year service contract, to receive the device unlocked from the get-go. Apple sells an unlocked iPhone 5 starting at $649, and Google sells its Nexus 4 unlocked for $300. If you do buy a new phone and want to unlock it before the deadline, you must first ask your carrier if the company will unlock your phone for you. The DMCA only permits you to unlock your phone yourself once you've asked your carrier first.(Note that unlocking is different from "jailbreaking," which opens the phone up for running additional software and remains legal for smartphones.)The U.S. Copyright Office notes that "only a consumer, who is also the owner of the copy of software on the handset under the law, may unlock the handset."But come Saturday, you'll have to break the law to unlock your phone. If you want to get in under the gun, you can search the Internet for the code to enter to unlock the phone or find a tool that will help you accomplish the task.The change could crimp the style of carriers like T-Mobile, which have pushed "bring your own device" as an incentive for switching service providers. Such carriers promise savings in exchange for using your existing phone on their network.T-Mobile has promoted this notion for iPhones, in particular, since the company is the only one of the big four U.S. carriers that doesn't sell the iPhone. The carrier goes so far as to feature ads displaying an open padlock, with an iPhone replacing the body of the lock. 
xptrish posted Jan 25, 2013

illegal to unlock a phone? well, it should be illegal to have a law like this.

alecupope (rep: 23.6k) posted Jan 26, 2013


what if you buy an unlocked phone on ebay that was unlocked before the deadline

helloamy1977 (rep: 2.6k) posted Jan 26, 2013


@helloamy1977 - That is ok. You bought it legally prior to the deadline, so nothing can be done to you.

bbattag (rep: 7k) posted Jan 26, 2013


Do you really think they are going to be able to enforce this law? Talk about a waste of money on this country that is already going bankrupt.

krmills1 (rep: 14.4k) posted Jan 26, 2013


I never understood what it means to unlock a phone anyway?
Sort of a tracking device? Another way for government to impose laws on us?

MdavidK30 (rep: 3.7k) posted Jan 26, 2013


Wow. Our government is completely out of control. We are losing freedoms left and right while other countries are gaining theirs

akaricke (rep: 161k) posted Jan 26, 2013


bbattag I was asking if you buy one after the deadline that was unlocked before the deadline

helloamy1977 (rep: 2.6k) posted Jan 27, 2013


How can it be illegal to unlock a phone? What's the connection? This is so ........ lol!

alicepattinson (rep: 130) posted Jan 27, 2013


It should be illegal. Youre getting a deal on a phone with a contract based on using the phone with that provider and then the price of the phone is subsidized into the contract. Which is what this law entails, unlocking a phone that is under contract. There is nothing that says you cant have the phone unlocked after your contract is up and the provider is required to unlock it after the contract is up. Its really not a big deal.

Acidbaby (rep: 7k) posted Jan 27, 2013


This is a horrible violation of personal freedom. Once a product is paid for it should be a person should be able to actually USE it. The government is out of control with taking away freedom lately.

LokaFreeThings2 (rep: 3k) posted Jan 27, 2013


You are free to do with it what you want after its paid for which is when your contract expires which the phone can then be unlocked. People are letting emotions get in the way of common sense. This is no different than leasing a car you have a contract to use the vehicle for a certain amount of time in which you are saving money on payments compared to buying the car out right.

Acidbaby (rep: 7k) posted Jan 29, 2013


Well I shouldn't say no different. Moreso, similar.

Acidbaby (rep: 7k) posted Jan 29, 2013


I heard in the news today that the President is signing something ( I think) to repeal that law. can anyone else elaborate on that?

xptrish (rep: 101k) posted Mar 05, 2013


The White House is against the ban. So maybe the administration will over turn the law.

jkbane (rep: 27) posted Mar 06, 2013


Congress is taking up a bill to make unlocking phones legal. But, I do see the carriers point of view if they give someone a $600 phone for $100 or $200 and that persons leaves for another carrier and they really don't have a way to collect the early termination fee. But, once the two years are up or someone pays full price for the phone then I see no reason why they should not be able to unlock their phone.

erick99 (rep: 432k) posted Mar 07, 2013