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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 Overzeetop (214511) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:38AM (#42690371) Journal

    "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."

    That doesn't make sense. You own it or you don't. I own my iPhone, but in return for a reduced price I have agreed to use the carriers service. If I do not fulfill my agreement the penalty is financial, not the return of the merchandise. I don't even have to use my iPhone to fulfill the agreement.

    Also, if you break the decryption, you break it. What if you agree to an upgraded OS version and it installs - is that now software obtained after the date of prohibition?

    Clarification, anyone?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:40AM (#42690399)

    It's not fair in any case, since the sole purpose of such laws is to protect business models that were not viable on their own.

  • by Platinumrat (1166135) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:55AM (#42690567) Journal
    In Australia, the carriers are obliged to provide a service to unlock your phone, regardless of how long your contract has to finish. They can charge a nominal fee, if you're still in contract. The phone's yours regardless of the subsidy. You still have the choice, under the contract, of cancelling it early and then having to pay an early termination fee.
  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:06AM (#42690705)

    Im not clear here, unlocking is specifically for joining a new carrier, correct? TFS indicates that fulfilling your contract would allow you to unlock your phone, and if you havent fulfilled your contract Im not seeing how you could have unlocked your phone anyways without breaking contract.

    From TFA

    Other people just like the freedom of being able to switch carriers as they please.

    Which you cant do, nor should be able to on contract-subsidized phones, until the contract term is complete; however you could always

    .... 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.

    Can someone clarify what the actual issue is?

  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:09AM (#42690755)

    Slashdot: A place where people think their entertainment needs and entitlements allow them to violate contract law (and whatever other laws they want) at will.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:29AM (#42690999) Journal

    According to TFA, you can unlock it yourself - you're the only person authorized to unlock it. The catch is that nobody can help you, or they'll be in violation of traffiking in circumvention methods or software, which is illegal. Just like DVDs and Bluray discs.

    If they take you to court, you can claim either fair use and/or interoperability requirements in order to make your phone work on another carrier. If they take your unlocking service to court, your service will likely have no such claim as it was not for their use. At least, that's how I understand the goofiness which is the DMCA.

  • by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:50AM (#42691229)

    I agree - they should be able to sue you in a civil court - like any other company would do if you brake any other contract! not sure why this is a special case.

    Why should they? There are many reasons to unlock your phone that don't amount to exiting your contract early.

    ie. I travel overseas and like to purchase a local SIM to avoid enormous roaming charges. I still pay my monthly fee and I don't end up using my included minutes on my plan.

    ie. I occasionally like to have a different number for dealing with some people (recruiters, companies who I know will sell off my details to every bidder, etc). I can just pop in a second SIM (perhaps on the same carrier, perhaps not, depending on who has the best pre-paid offer this week). I can call them, give them 'my' number and when my business is concluded I can destroy the other SIM and never have to worry about their tele-spam again. No, I don't want (or need) a whole second phone to do that; the GSM spec allows it with interchangeable SIMs.

    In either case I am not carrier jumping. I am maintaining my monthly plan in good order, and most of the time making the majority of my calls via that plan.

    The reason carriers want the phones locked is not because you pay your monthly bill. It's because they want you to use up all of your included 'value' (I don't know how I get $750 of 'value' each month but only pay $49, but that's a deceptive practices discussion for another day). They want you locked in when you've used up your included value. If you can't switch out the SIM for one that isn't in the penalty range they have you by the love spuds! That's what they want!

  • by ACluk90 (2618091) on Friday January 25, 2013 @12:41PM (#42691991)

    No this is not true. In fact, if it were true, unlocking would remain legal. It becomes illegal, because they want to force you to use that particular phone while you are with them and that you cannot use the phone with a different provider after the contract has ended!

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday January 25, 2013 @01:05PM (#42692277)

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

    I disagree. They are very popular to the typical US consumer, who doesn't want to pay more than a couple bucks for a new shiny phone in their hands.

    If it wasn't popular, then the business model wouldn't be viable, because no one in their right might would voluntarily chain themselves to a carrier for years knowing that plan pricing, internet caps, speed throttling, and terms of usage are continually shifting and subject to change without notice, approval, or even the threat of class action from the affected.

    To say it is popular when it is the only choice available is a sign of ant-trust violations, not good business models. There are only a handful of cellular companies and they somehow all have the same business model with out collusion? Seems might odd. When the railroads tried this back in the first part of the last century, the government stepped in to protect the rights of the users. My how times have changed. Today, the government seems more interested in protecting the rights of the companies.

The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. -- Admiral William Leahy, U.S. Atomic Bomb Project

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