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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 xkpe (1842034) on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:35AM (#42690335)
    ... if carriers actually released updated to their modified versions of the OS with little delay.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:40AM (#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 radiumsoup (741987) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:00AM (#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 Applekid (993327) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:09AM (#42691485)

          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.

          • by mrsquid0 (1335303) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:18AM (#42691643) Homepage

            >> 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.

            The subsidized handset business model is popular with typical US customers because customers do not realize that they are actually paying full price for their handset through what is essentially an installment plan. Pay one cent up front and several hundred dollars spread over the next two years. If US mobile phone users are not going to have the ability to do as they will with their mobiles after the contract has expired then the carriers should be honest about the situation and rent the handsets instead of using stealth leases.


            • The subsidized handset business model is popular with typical US customers because customers do not realize that they are actually paying full price for their handset through what is essentially an installment plan.

              The high retail prices of cell phones are fiction. An iPhone for $999???: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16875100060 [newegg.com] Granted, this is Apple. But there have always been shitty phones with "retail prices" of $500-$800.
            • >> 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.

              The subsidized handset business model is popular with typical US customers because customers do not realize that they are actually paying full price for their handset through what is essentially an installment plan. Pay one cent up front and several hundred dollars spread over the next two years. If US mobile phone users are not going to have the ability to do as they will with their mobiles after the contract has expired then the carriers should be honest about the situation and rent the handsets instead of using stealth leases.

              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.

              • by arth1 (260657) on Friday January 25, 2013 @02:41PM (#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.

                • by Rich0 (548339)

                  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.

                  Not sure what you mean by "not as much less as they should." If you buy a top-of-the-line phone on a value plan the downpayment and monthly payments work out to about the retail price of the phone - if anything you're getting a break on time value of money. Now, I will say that their phones tend to be pricey compared to what you can find unlocked online.

                  If you don't get a phone from them at all their plans are quite reasonable. Sure, I'd like them to be cheaper, but they're about the cheapest national ca

            • by Waccoon (1186667)

              The subsidized handset business model is popular with typical US customers because customers do not realize that they are actually paying full price for their handset through what is essentially an installment plan

              Or roughly, Twitter toys are more important than math.

              I tell people I don't have a smartphone because I don't want to pay around $2,500 for a shiny gadget over the life of the contract. They look at me like I have five heads and can't figure out where I got that number.

          • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday January 25, 2013 @12:05PM (#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.

            • 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.

              Except that it's not the only option available. Right here in Chicago, T-Mobile is pushing their value plans which don't subsidize the phones. My wife and I bought our first Android-based smartphones a little over a year ago, paying for the phones up front (still at a discount, but they're locked) but a less-expensive shared minutes/data plan. For a while now, many carriers including the big players have offered pay-as-you-go even voice & data plans.

              More to the point, in the last 10 years that I've h

          • I'm up in Canada...my dad just re-upped with his cell provider for 2 years. In return he paid $50 for a phone that would cost $300 to buy outright. He's on a $25/month plan with voice/text only, no data.

            As for "plan pricing, internet caps, speed throttling, and terms of usage" constantly shifting, while the cell company can change the plans they offer to new customers they can't change the details of a contract that has already been signed.

        • by gl4ss (559668) on Friday January 25, 2013 @12:04PM (#42692265) Homepage Journal

          it's not a viable business model evidently without excessive lobbying for laws to make it so.

          mainly because they don't want to call them rentals phones.

        • by Patch86 (1465427) on Friday January 25, 2013 @01:44PM (#42693585)

          Exactly the opposite is true. They are popular, because people like deals where they can have the shiniest of high-tech gadgets at only a few dollars a month. It appeals greatly to people who do not have the required sum up front, and essentially require a loan/financing deal.

          It is, however, not viable; or at least not viable without laws being passed to protect it. Without this enforcement, it is trivial for people to game the system- getting cheap phones on contract, and then switching to a different network before the company has had a chance to make their expected profit out of you. They could get around this problem by changing their business model (for example, making it a real official loan which you pay off regardless, and with an interest rate fixed at the level they deem an appropriate level of profit), but that is unpalatable; it breaks the illusion of a cheap deal to the consumer, and makes it clearer how they are making their money.

          This is government intervention to protect an otherwise flawed business model.

        • by cusco (717999)
          the unlocking activity is going to get reviewed by judges.

          This will only happen if there is enough money involved to drag lawyers into a courtroom. Anyone that I personally know would rather cough up the extra couple hundred dollars for an unlocked phone rather than spend weeks of their time and many thousands of dollars in lawyer and court fees to actually get this before the judiciary. I'm sure there are people out there would consider doing something like that 'on principle', but I don't know any o
      • by Enry (630) <enry&wayga,net> on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:04AM (#42690673) Journal

        There's nothing preventing you from buying a phone at the unsubsidized price and then modifying it. You're making a deal with the cell phone provider: You agree that you'll honor the contract you signed, and they give you a phone at a discount. Hopefully this is going to be a bit easier over time as everyones moves to LTE (does this mean that CDMA finally bites the dust?) and phones become standardized like the rest of the civilized world.

        • by ACluk90 (2618091) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:41AM (#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!

          • Who said it was illegal to unlock it after the contract ended? Certainly not TFA or TFS.

            • by BBTaeKwonDo (1540945) on Friday January 25, 2013 @12:21PM (#42692489)
              The DMCA says unlocking is illegal. The (soon to be expired) exemption says that unlocking is legal. There is nothing in the exemption or in the DMCA about a contract.
              • by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday January 25, 2013 @12:56PM (#42692939)

                The DMCA says unlocking is illegal. The (soon to be expired) exemption says that unlocking is legal. There is nothing in the exemption or in the DMCA about a contract.

                The DMCA says nothing about unlocking; it talks about circumventing measures that are used to prevent copying. An exemption to the DMCA was made to allow such circumvention in order to unlock a phone. So there was no question that unlocking a phone is perfectly legal, the only problem was that to do something perfectly legal you had to do something illegal as well, and the exemption was there because huge numbers of users wanted to make use of their legal right to unlock a phone.

                Now it seems that the situation has changed to the point (that's the reasoning) that people can unlock their phones without any circumvention of copy protection, and therefore the exemption isn't needed anymore. If that's the case then fair enough. On the other hand, if your service provider refuses to unlock your phone, then you should complain.

        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday January 25, 2013 @12:14PM (#42692395)

          There's nothing preventing you from buying a phone at the unsubsidized price and then modifying it. You're making a deal with the cell phone provider: You agree that you'll honor the contract you signed, and they give you a phone at a discount. Hopefully this is going to be a bit easier over time as everyones moves to LTE (does this mean that CDMA finally bites the dust?) and phones become standardized like the rest of the civilized world.

          If that were true, then why is the cell phone contract not lower if I bring my own phone, since there is no subsidy? One could argue that the the price they offer the phone to the customer is not a subsidized price, but simply the market price. If they could charge more for the phone, they would, but the market won't bear it, so they can't. It has nothing to do with a subsidy, but instead is more like a loss leader, where the grocery store agrees to take a loss on Pepsi, to get people into the store to buy other goods.

          They can call it a subsidy, but that is just marketing speak.

          • by Cederic (9623)

            If that were true, then why is the cell phone contract not lower if I bring my own phone

            I think every carrier in the UK offers 'sim only' contracts and 'sim only' 'pay as you go' services.

            I'm paying £16/month for unlimited data (and so many texts, calls and other shite I don't need that they're approximately infinite) on a rolling one-month contract. I just kept my previous phone (which is still only a year old and has just two handset models available worldwide that I consider to be upgrades).

            If nobody in the US offers that then rent some bandwidth on one of the existing carriers

      • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:06AM (#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 HateBreeder (656491) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:23AM (#42690925)

          Why is this a special case and needs a special law? Why is the contract you sign insufficient?

          Why do they need to make it illegal to unlock a phone, rather than keeping it completely within contract law?

          Do you realize how insane a situation it's going to be where a phone company can ask the police to arrest you because you have unlocked your phone?

          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.

          • by thegrassyknowl (762218) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:50AM (#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 HateBreeder (656491) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:00AM (#42691321)

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

              If the contract you signed specifically prohibits you from unlocking your phone, then they will be within their rights to sue you.

              I'm not suggesting they should be given any additional rights (which are not specified in the contract that you agreed upon in advance).

              Personally, I only get full priced unlocked phones. I then get a no-contract SIM card.
              Admittedly, it's much more affordable in the UK than in the US.

        • by colin_young (902826) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:24AM (#42690937)

          Not just joining a new carrier. I'm an e.g. T-Mobile subscriber, and I'm traveling to e.g. Canada. I'd like to use a local account while I'm in Canada so I'm not paying the international roaming charges (0.59/minute voice, $10/MB data). So I'd like to temporarily swap SIMs. I still plan to honor my contract with T-Mobile.

          As an example of charges, it would cost over $10 just to view the page (http://www.t-mobile.com/international/roamingoverview.aspx?tp=Inl_Tab_RoamWorldwide) that tells you how much you'll be charged, and that's just for that single page. It doesn't account for the navigation it took to get there.

          There are perfectly legitimate reasons to unlock your cellphone. It is a matter that should be covered under contract law, not criminal law.

          • That makes sense, but the phone isnt fully yours until the contract terms are fulfilled anyways, is it?

            Agree with contract law etc, but that boat sailed 10 years ago with the DMCA.

            • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:49AM (#42691207) Journal

              True. By extension, my house isn't truly mine until I pay off the mortgage. Does this mean I can't make any changes to it?

              • by KingMotley (944240) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:06AM (#42691433) Journal

                True. By extension, my house isn't truly mine until I pay off the mortgage. Does this mean I can't make any changes to it?

                Some, but not all, no. There are restrictions on what you can do with a mortgaged house. For example, you can't just tear it down because you feel like it if it's mortgaged. Nor can you make any changes that would intentionally depreciate the value of the house. You also can't sell it without paying off the mortgage. You also have to insure the house. I'm sure there are other restrictions, but yes, it's not the same as owning the house outright.

                • by MightyYar (622222)

                  But most of the things you describe would be covered in civil court. Unless you engage in something like fraud, the authorities will not come arrest you for breaking your mortgage terms. If I stop insuring my house, the mortgage company can foreclose or sue me. They cannot have an officer throw me in prison. The phone companies have the Federal Government enforcing their interests... that's pretty different.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by babybird (791025)

                  But what you can do with a locked phone, whether subsidized or not, is smash it, burn it, destroy it, sell it etc., all without breaking any laws. You just can't unlock it.

        • by AF_Cheddar_Head (1186601) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:17AM (#42691627)

          It is not necessarily a matter of fulfilling the contract for example:

          I am an ATT customer and have been for 10 years. I get a new phone periodically which starts a new commitment, no problem. I pay my monthly bill fulfilling my part of the contract, again no problem.

          I travel overseas frequently and wish to purchase a local SIM to communicate with my local business partners. Now, according to this ruling, it is illegal for me to unlock my phone to use the local, problem.

          ATT, before Cingular bought them, had no problem with unlocking my phone as I was a long time customer now I have to purchase a second phone to use while overseas, problem.

          Now if ATT gave me a price break for bringing my own phone instead of using a subsidized phone I could understand their reluctance to unlock my phone but considering I am a long term customer... Maybe time to not be a customer...

        • by sjames (1099)

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

          Why not? As long as I keep making my monthly payments as required by the contract, I haven't broken it by choosing to also pay another carrier (perhaps to avoid roaming charges when I'm traveling).

      • by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:47AM (#42692079)

        I bet this doesn't hold up in court. Just wait for someone to unlock the phone, get in trouble, and escalate up to the supreme court.

        The DMCA's teeth have always primarily been about threats and take-down. Actually having this aspect of it put on trial would destroy that, so no company would risk it. All this stops are small businesses who unlock phones for people for a fee, without paying whatever dues are required to the carrier monopoly.

    • by Xicor (2738029) on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:42AM (#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 @09:46AM (#42690451) Homepage
      This refers to carrier unlocks, not rooting or jailbreaks.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Sockatume (732728)

        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.

    • Doesn't have anything to do with that. Rooting your phone is different than SIM unlocking it.

    • ... if carriers actually released updated to their modified versions of the OS with little delay.

      Its *not acceptable* never mind fair. You own the phone, implying your hire it is a disgrace. If your only hiring it they should massively reduce costs, and inform you clearly they own the phone.

      • You own the phone, implying your hire it is a disgrace

        Unless Im mistaken, you own the phone pursuant to contract terms. The whole reason youre getting that Galaxy S3 for $200 instead of $600 is because Verizon agreed to the $200 price SO LONG AS you signed a 2 year agreement.

        Im not clear if Im missing the real problem here, or if people are really arguing that we should say "to hell with contract law".

        • by Qzukk (229616)

          is because Verizon agreed to the $200 price SO LONG AS you signed a 2 year agreement

          And the contract has clear and voluntary termination terms, which include paying the remaining $400 to Verizon if you decide to quit early. Once someone chooses to terminate the contract and fulfills the termination terms, why should they be beholden to Verizon?

    • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:00AM (#42690635)

      What would be more fair is if they set an actual fair rate for the "no contract" price. They basically jack up the prices heavily on the no contract phones to try and force you to the subsidized ones.

      Google's Nexus 4 is unlocked and sold for $299, yet Verizon essentially wants $150-200 for "subsidized" versions of the similar level phones or $500-600 for no contract versions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:36AM (#42690351)

    The times where you could live and not break any law are long since gone anyway.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:38AM (#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?

    • You're describing how it should be, not how it is.

      The firmware of a mobile phone is covered by copyright law. The copyright holder in virtually all locked phones has implemented an Access Control Mechanism, per the DMCA, that prevents anything but the official copyrighted firmware from being programmed into a locked phone. That copyrighted firmware does not allow access to other carriers other than the carrier the phone was subsidized by.

      In order to unlock the phone, either an official lock code is req

      • by pla (258480) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:26AM (#42690961) Journal
        The firmware of a mobile phone is covered by copyright law.

        To which the manufacturer, not the carrier, holds the copyright. But okay so far...


        In order to unlock the phone, either an official lock code is required (which may be obtained unofficially, and whose legal status if obtained unofficially is dubious) or the firmware needs to be replaced

        If I replace the firmware, then the phone no longer contains the original copyrighted code. This seems like a self-correcting "problem".

        That said, the new firmware most likely just contains a slightly modified version of the original, so back to copyright violation; but if someone actually wrote a clean-room implementation, the DMCA should no longer apply.

        Realistically, of course, none of this matters. As they've always done, the government will just use this as yet another selective enforcement tool to fuck over anyone they want to go after while happily ignoring the vast majority of violations.
    • "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.

      That would depend on what the contract that you agreed to says. If the contract says that the penalty for breach is transfer of ownership of the phone back to the carrier, and you agree to that contract, then yeah, penalty is return of the merchandise.

    • by rjr162 (69736)

      So where's the law requiring carriers to unlock phones after the contract period is up?

  • - "...away from your phone with your hands behind your head" - "But officer..." - "Anything you say can and will be used against you"
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:41AM (#42690403) Journal

    You heard it here first, folks.

  • Please consider this action your invitation to take the FBI tracking devices that you peddle and shove them up your fiscally tight posteriors.

    There is no one that I want to talk to so much that I will put up with this abuse.

  • Why the DMCA is stupid.

  • we the people? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Friday January 25, 2013 @09:58AM (#42690611) Homepage Journal

    I'm surprised this issue hasn't been tossed out onto a We the People petition?

    Although recently we've seen a few of those used for stupid things (death star) as well as being flat out trampled on a few times with responses that basically said "we don't feel like telling you that", it would still be nice to see it out there.

  • FCC should allow unlocking of phones after the subsidy period is completed (essentially rent to own) and there should be a usury limit on exactly what the effective rate of interest is, because, as a previous commenter pointed out, that is what is going on.
  • I purchase a phone, with my money. It's in my house. I own the phone. I own the house. It's illegal for me to make a particular modification to a piece of hardware that I own, on my property. Is that what this law is saying?

    Aside from the fact that I will never purchase an unlocked phone again, and the market for said unlocked phones will skyrocket, I'm skeptical that this little example of corporate/feudalistic dictatorial overreach is going to stand up to court challenges.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:29AM (#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 AwaxSlashdot (600672) on Friday January 25, 2013 @10:06AM (#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.

  • I don't get the issue.
    Unlocking just lets you use the phone with a different carrier than the one from which you bought it. It's not jailbreaking.
  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Friday January 25, 2013 @11:07AM (#42691465)

    Last time I checked the Library of Congress can't make (legislative) or interpret (judicial) the law.

  • I've travelled all over the world and the state of mobile phone services in the USA is about the worst I have come across, especially for a short-term tourist who just wants a cheap pre-paid SIM with a data plan for their iPhone. Neither AT&T, nor Verizon could offer me a SIM at all claiming I had to buy a locked phone in order to get one, and all t-Mobile could offer me was a very expensive pre-paid SIM with connection to an Edge network only, no 3G or 4G. Compare this to most EU countries where you can buy prepaid SIMs from vending machines that come with 3G and 4G out of the box, or even Cambodia (and indeed most Asian countries) where for about US$10 you can buy a SIM from one of a dozen services as soon as you get off the plane with 2GB of 3G data built in. In Australia it's illegal for a telco to NOT unlock your phone on request, most places will sell you an unlocked phone directly if you like, and as a tourist most airports will sell pre-paid SIMs with 3G and 4G data plans quite cheaply. But in the USofA it's all vendor lock-in, restricted access, crappy coverage and shitty treatment for those of us who like to visit every now and again to visit friends unfortunate enough to live there, and take advantage of the shitty dollar to buy cheap clothes. Land of the free my arse.

Riches: A gift from Heaven signifying, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." -- John D. Rockefeller, (slander by Ambrose Bierce)

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