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Cellphones United States Your Rights Online

Unlocking New Mobile Phones Becomes Illegal In the US Tomorrow 475

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-owns-your-stuff dept.
Tyketto writes "Referencing a decision outlined in the Federal Register, Tech News Daily has published an article noting that the window to unlock your new mobile phone in the U.S. is closing. '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 library provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on January 26.' While this doesn't apply to phones purchased before the window closes, this means that after 1/26/13, for any new mobile phone you purchase, you'll have to fulfill your contract, or break the law to unlock it." It will still be perfectly legal to purchase an unlocked phone, which many carriers offer. This change removes the exemption for buying a new phone under contract (and thus, at a discount) and then unlocking it.
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Unlocking New Mobile Phones Becomes Illegal In the US Tomorrow

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  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:38AM (#42690381)
    You are free to purchase the handset, sans carrier lock in, for a lump sum. You are bound by the terms of the accompanying contract when you buy a subsidised handset, one of which being that the handset be locked to your carrier.

    Free market economics, bub; If you don't like, you don't have to buy it. Go get yourself a 0% interest credit card and buy the handset outright. It will be cheaper than paying contract fees, and you get updates when the manufacturer releases them, not the carrier.
  • by Xicor (2738029) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:42AM (#42690411)
    there is a difference between jail breaking/rooting and unlocking.... this would only affect those ppl who are using an old phone to travel in other countries... or ppl who, like it says, are buying a phone under a contract and then switching contracts
  • by s7uar7 (746699) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:46AM (#42690451) Homepage
    This refers to carrier unlocks, not rooting or jailbreaks.
  • Re:Yes Sir. (Score:3, Informative)

    by dugancent (2616577) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:47AM (#42690459)

    You're not cheating the other party. You're still under contract whether or not you use the phone and either have to keep paying or pay the termination feee.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:47AM (#42690473)

    Actually this is the result of the removal of a law. They added an unlocking exemption to the DMCA and have chosen not to renew it. The DMCA's so broad-reaching that they had to enumerate lists of things you were allowed to do because otherwise many entirely ordinary activities would've become illegal.

  • by radiumsoup (741987) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:00AM (#42690623)

    the subsidized handset business models of the US carriers are viable, just not universally popular. There's a difference.

    I'm not really sure which laws you mean by "such laws", exactly, but if you mean the DMCA, it's being used in a much wider scope than originally intended. That means it's vague, which makes it unenforceable and potentially unconstitutional, depending on the enforcement action taken. Additionally, whenever you have an entity in a section of government not located squarely in the Judicial branch making decisions on what is and isn't covered by a specific law, you have a clear invitation for judicial review. The LoC isn't the final say here, if the ban on unlocking new phones is actually enforced, the law as it applies to the unlocking activity is going to get reviewed by judges.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:04AM (#42690671)

    Actually it refers to rooting or jailbreaks for the sole purpose of performing a carrier unlock. Carrier unlocking itself is not covered by the DMCA and if there's a non-DMCA-breaching way to do it (Apple has a well-assembled system for unlocking iPhones), you have every right to do so.

  • by AwaxSlashdot (600672) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:06AM (#42690701) Homepage Journal

    Jailbreak = breaking the OS protection to perform operations not sanctionned by the phone manufacturer/integrator
    Unlocking = breaking the radio layer protection to use the phone with another carrier

    Both are "breaking" which is a concern for the DMCA but both had "waiver" as part of the DMCA. Now, the later does not have a waiver any more.

    Your phone is locked when you get it at a reduced price in exchange for exclusivly using it with the carrier that sold it to you. It is locked to its network. Unlocking a phone yourself was breaking the promise you personnaly made to the carrier. If you are not fine with having your phone locked, you can either buy it unlocked but for a bigger price, or ask the carrier to unlock it, usually free after a (long) time or for a fee.

  • by andy.ruddock (821066) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:21AM (#42690891) Homepage
    That's not what the article says, in fact it specifically says

    (Note that unlocking is different from "jailbreaking," which opens the phone up for running additional software and remains legal for smartphones.)

    so I read it as referring to sim unlocking.
  • Re:Walk slowly (Score:4, Informative)

    by Known Nutter (988758) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:43AM (#42691143)

    You've got it right. Typically, "may" is used.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miranda_warning#Typical_usage [wikipedia.org]

    TV has been screwing it up for ages.

  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday January 25, 2013 @12:26PM (#42691767) Homepage

    Except that "locked" phones are "locked" to a single carrier for the purpose of preventing the end user from swapping a SIM. "Jail-breaking" is an entirely different thing, and has no relation to carrier locks.

    If you want to swap the SIM, you need to unlock the phone. If you want to install third party software on your iPhone, you need to jail-break it. It's easy to confuse the two terms, but they are not the same.

  • by Githaron (2462596) on Friday January 25, 2013 @01:49PM (#42692857)

    To drive me last comment home, I did a quick Google search. According to this article [reuters.com], Verizon's profit margin is at over 40%. They could easily offer their customers a better experience and still make a nice profit but they instead choose to line their pockets since they don't have enough competition to justify putting more money towards customer experience.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Friday January 25, 2013 @03:41PM (#42694397) Homepage Journal

    Sort of. Except you don't pay less on the monthly bill if you opt to pay for the phone up front. You're paying the amortized "fee" either way.

    This depends on the carrier. T-Mobile has become more upfront with the charges, and now factor in the cost of the phone in your monthly charges, and charge less if you BYOP or when you have paid off your phone. Not as much less as they should, but still.

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