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Cellphones United States Your Rights Online

What You Need To Know About Phone Unlocking 321

Posted by timothy
from the land-of-liberty dept.
Now that unlocking a new phone is under many circumstances illegal in the U.S. (!), Digital Trends has collected a useful set of answers outlining just what that means. As they put it, a "quick guide to answer all your why, how, and WTF questions." Among them, some explanation of the rule-making process, the reasoning that led to the end to the unlocking exception to the DMCA (including the Ninth Circuit's 2010 Vernor v. Autodesk decision), and illustrations of situations in which it is not illegal to unlock your phone.
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What You Need To Know About Phone Unlocking

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:09PM (#42707575)

    ...and I'll be unlocking them now that they've made it "illegal". I just don't fucking care what the United States government has to say about anything, anymore. They've lost all credibility in the eyes of most intelligent, thinking people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:19PM (#42707637)

    USA needs to remove "land of the free" from their national anthem as they are plunging down the international listings of freedom.

    Why? Citizens in the US have more freedom than anywhere else on the planet.

    Don't forget, people are not citizens any more, corporations are citizens but people aren't. People are items with a value, there to be used.

  • by xaxa (988988) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:21PM (#42707649)

    FTA:

    Why is it illegal to unlock a smartphone?
    Because unlocking a phone requires making changes to its firmware – software that is copyrighted and owned by your carrier – which would be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

    I don't understand. If I buy a book, and make some edits (cross out some paragraphs, change some words) that's not illegal. Perhaps it would be if I distributed the book (or copies of it). Selling pens to make the edits isn't illegal either.

    How is changing firmware different?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:22PM (#42707655)

    A lot of people would probably disagree with me on this, but while I've never bought a smartphone outright, I think I'd rather have unlocking be legal even if it meant the end of subsidized devices.

    No doubt the carriers would hate that too, though. I know they usually will, but does anyone know if a carrier is required to unlock a phone when you've lived out the associated contract term?

  • by blackest_k (761565) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:31PM (#42707745) Homepage Journal

    In Ireland the phone networks are legally obligated to unlock phones for free, although they are allowed to charge an administration fee (about 25 euro)

  • Not viable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xenobyte (446878) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:40PM (#42707801)

    The locked subsidized phone model is not viable, at least not here in Denmark.

    A year or so ago all the major carriers here agreed that they would stop the subsidizing and thus the locking of new phones. The value of the phone simply did not match how much the forced subscription (6 months) would yield and as many customers simply switched phone and carrier every 6 months, they consistently lost money.

    So now you either pay the full price for the new phone or in installments on your phone bill. If you end your subscription after the first 6 months but before the phone was paid for, you had to pay the remainder in order to end the contract. Simple and avoids the creation of stupid laws to fix a broken business model.

  • by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@nOSPAm.ovi.com> on Sunday January 27, 2013 @12:51PM (#42707875) Homepage

    I noticed you say " consumer ". With laws like the DMCA, you are just that, and not a " customer ".

  • by Cinder6 (894572) on Sunday January 27, 2013 @01:08PM (#42708051)

    Why is it illegal to unlock a smartphone?
    Because unlocking a phone requires making changes to its firmware – software that is copyrighted and owned by your carrier – which would be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

    IANAL, but I'm confused. I thought the "point" of the DMCA was to crack down on copyright violations. Code modification would be a DMCA violation if it allowed you to violate copyright, such as bypassing DRM.

    "Changing" the copyrighted carrier code doesn't seem to violate copyright, as I understand it, as you are not under legal obligation to use a particular carrier (there's even a clause that allows you to break contract, for a price). Also, what "changes" does the unlocking process commit? If it's simply code removal, then, simply uninstalling a game from your computer is a DMCA violation by extension.

    Of course, I'm trying to make sense of something that is inherently illogical. Why is this a DMCA violation, and modding Skyrim isn't? Or is modding Skyrim a violation, and Bethesda simply allows it?

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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