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It may become illegal to unlock your phone starting Saturday

Posted: , by Michael H.

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It may become illegal to unlock your phone starting Saturday
Do you all remember that ruckus that happened over whether or not it was illegal to jailbreak your mobile device? Well, that whole fiasco is poised to come back in a bad way this weekend. As part of that decision, it may become illegal to unlock your smartphone starting this Saturday, January 26th, unless you get permission from your carrier.

This all goes back to the decision by the U.S. Copyright Office, which decided back in October that it was legal to jailbreak your mobile device under an exemption in the DMCA. Unfortunately, that exemption was only extended for 90 days when it came to unlocking a device that you purchase from a carrier, and that 90 days ends on Saturday. 

To be clear, this will make it illegal to unlock carrier-locked devices without permission from your carrier. This doesn't apply to devices that start out unlocked like many Verizon LTE devices, like the Verizon iPhone 5, and the Verizon HTC Windows Phone 8X, or T-Mobile devices like the Nexus 4. And, of course, unlocking and jailbreaking will still void your warranty. 

Apparently, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, jailbreaking and rooting are legal because the DMCA exemption means that users own the software on the device, and are allowed to jailbreak/root.  But following that logic, as of Saturday, we don't own the hardware that we purchase from carriers, so unlocking becomes illegal. Theoretically, the theory is that if you're buying from a carrier

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posted on 24 Jan 2013, 14:58 69

1. JonBjSig (Posts: 176; Member since: 17 Nov 2011)


It's funny how in the US it's illegal for a customer to unlock their phone but here in Iceland it's illegal for a carrier to lock your phone.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:07 70

3. JunitoNH (Posts: 842; Member since: 15 Feb 2012)


Because here, in the US, politicians are like hookers. They go to bed with anyone with enough money, enough said!!!!

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:50 9

27. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 3226; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


Iceland and the US have totally different views and customs. You technically don't own the device until you fully pay it out on your contract, e.g. Subsidized phones.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 16:52 11

41. Nadr1212 (Posts: 741; Member since: 22 Sep 2012)


How do you not own what you LEGALLY purchase with your own, personal, hard earned money?!?!?!

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 19:28 5

49. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 3226; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


You don't fully pay for the phone until your contract obligations for the phone are fulfilled.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 17:14 10

43. true1984 (Posts: 582; Member since: 23 May 2012)


so what about when you buy off contract? doesnt that mean you own it since you arent paying a subsidized price?

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 19:28 3

50. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 3226; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


If you bought it new and off contract yeah.

posted on 25 Jan 2013, 19:48

73. metalpoet (unregistered)


Im sorry but I actually approve of it being illegal in the U.S. for rooting, jailbreaking, or unlocking your device if your under contract. I know its not a popular opinion but those people that want to buy devices that are already unlocked directly affect my job and therefore I am against it.

And to Mxyzptlk:
Normally We never see eye to eye but I agree with you that no one truly owns their device until their contract is fulfilled or they buy the deivce out right. Thats the reason why contracts exist in the cellphone world, because Wireless Carriers have 2 years of gauranteed revenue from you and in exchange they will let you to a rent to own on that $700 cellphone :)

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 18:13 1

47. CheapSocks (Posts: 21; Member since: 07 Nov 2012)


Well this is gonna be rather hard to enforce on android devices. You see the whole open source thing makes unlocking/ exploiting kinda hard to fight.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 19:29 3

51. Mxyzptlk (Posts: 3226; Member since: 21 Apr 2012)


Android isn't fully open sourced. Locked bootloaders should be enough to tell you that.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 20:03 4

52. OptimusOne (Posts: 694; Member since: 22 May 2012)


Do you even know what is open source

Open source is when the source code is available on the web and that it is free for anyone to use
Its nothing to do with boot loaders or locked or whatnot

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 21:04 3

57. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2650; Member since: 26 May 2011)


Android is quasi-open source, because while the source code is made available, it isn't made available until Google releases it. It's not like you can go in and help with the code for Android Key Lime Pie while Google is working on it right now, like you can with Ubuntu or Firefox.

Locked bootloaders don't matter, but Mxy was almost right.

posted on 25 Jan 2013, 15:37 2

72. iCandy (Posts: 46; Member since: 07 Dec 2011)


Mike, sorry but your argument makes little sense. I can't imagine that the GPL requires a developer to publish non-final/unstable code (i.e. every time a character is added or removed from the code, intentionally or not). However, I would agree with you if you had claimed that Android does not comply with the GPL since it requires, in theory, all software associated with Android to be also be distributed as open-source (drivers, third party apps, etc.), which I can't imagine they all are.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 20:08 5

53. OptimusOne (Posts: 694; Member since: 22 May 2012)


Taco

You are a typical iPhone user
Ignorant Stupid One sided

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 20:52 2

56. networkdood (Posts: 6250; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


locked bootloaders does not disallow the modding of a phone - on my DROID RAZR, locked BL, I use safestrap with TWRP recovery and can flash a JB ROM on it....and the one I have now is still better than the new JB update.

posted on 25 Jan 2013, 00:55 1

67. CheapSocks (Posts: 21; Member since: 07 Nov 2012)


locking a bootloader is entirely up to the manufacturer and carrier and even that can be easily broken since the code work for the newest versions of android has to be released.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:07 27

4. BadAssAbe (Posts: 434; Member since: 22 Apr 2011)


I suddenly just became a fan of iceland :-)
Can we borrow a few of your government officials? We trade you 2 for the price of 1?
;-)

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:45 8

25. OptimusOne (Posts: 694; Member since: 22 May 2012)


how about boehner AND obama

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:42 17

22. medicci37 (Posts: 595; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)


Yeah. Iceland seems to have alot more respect for consumers than the US.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 16:54 2

42. Zero0 (Posts: 571; Member since: 05 Jul 2012)


Maybe that's what the plan is. It's illegal to unlock your phone, because it will never be locked in the first place.

That would be a heck of a twist.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 19:17 2

48. torr310 (Posts: 336; Member since: 27 Oct 2011)


So maybe it's better not to get the subsidized phones now...
Switching to T-Mobile after my contract ends.

posted on 25 Jan 2013, 01:57

69. jsdechavez (Posts: 699; Member since: 20 Jul 2012)


In the Philippines, most handsets come unlocked. Well, except for those few postpaid subscribers..

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:05 9

2. JunitoNH (Posts: 842; Member since: 15 Feb 2012)


"To be clear, this will make it illegal to unlock carrier-locked devices without permission from your carrier." Is time for the American people to wake up from their fog, and start doing the right thing. Perhaps, we should dump, yes I know is never going to happen, carriers with locked devices and see what happens. I refuse to count minutes and text. Furthermore, not going to pay $10-20 for text packages, when I know the cost is minimal to the particular carrier. Verizon, think their providing an invaluable deal with their share everything. I rather go old school, purchase a flip phone, and use the internet when home.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:14 5

7. Captain_Doug (Posts: 747; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


American people =/= government officials. Nobody likes this except carriers and those who they are paying.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:17 10

8. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2650; Member since: 26 May 2011)


T-Mobile is already moving away from locked devices. The thing I wonder about is that Verizon said moving away from contracts is a good idea, but that doesn't necessarily mean moving away from locked devices.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:20 10

10. Captain_Doug (Posts: 747; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


T-mobile fills me with hope.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:34

17. PAPINYC (Posts: 2187; Member since: 30 Jul 2011)


Actually, I had a very lovely conversation with a Verizon Data Technical Support Supervisor this past Sunday, apparently, my Verizon Galaxy Note 2, like the Iphone 5, is already unlocked. She said that most Verizon 4G phones are now unlocked, unlike Global 3G phones which have to be unlocked. Anyhoot, what I don't understand about the article, are we to infer that Jailbreak = unlocked and that the so called illegality of the jailbreak would also imply illegality of a rooted phone since, jailbreak and root are synonymous in certain technical circles??

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:44 7

23. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2650; Member since: 26 May 2011)


Jailbreak doesn't equal unlocked. Jailbreak and root are synonymous, but they are different from unlocking. Jailbreak and root are legal because the court determined that users own the software on the device, but as of Saturday, we apparently don't own the hardware that we purchase, so unlocking becomes illegal.

I'll update the article to explain this.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:52 1

30. PAPINYC (Posts: 2187; Member since: 30 Jul 2011)


Thanks, I thought so. I read the article in the context of unlocking being the same as jailbreaking (or rooting) which confused me as to which process was, in fact, soon-to-be illegal.

Thanks

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:53 2

31. gaby1451 (Posts: 113; Member since: 30 Mar 2011)


Okay, do it quickly because people need to know and I'm about to post this on my wall.

posted on 25 Jan 2013, 00:01

62. bvalde09 (Posts: 172; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)


Michael I have a question and maybe you could research into this. What about us getting a phone on ebay and the unlock the phone paying a retail seller? Would that be illegal? I mean I dont think so but its what I understand

posted on 25 Jan 2013, 00:33

66. MorePhonesThanNeeded (Posts: 618; Member since: 23 Oct 2011)


I am confused, unlocking the phone is somehow something hardware associated? Color me surprised, I was sure that the Lock was a software lock and not a hardware lock and since we own the software then wouldn't that make the lock illegal to begin with? Who writes the dumb as hell rules, you own the software when you purchase the phone but you don't own the hardware, yet it's illegal to unlock it without your carriers consent but it's a software lock and not hardware lock...so I find something completely wrong with this whole story.

Someone please explain, as of now I find this crazy. Another thing how would you lock the hardware?!? Anyone else confused?

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:08 11

5. CivicSi89 (Posts: 348; Member since: 23 Jul 2011)


Im seriously getting sick of this. YOU purchased your hardware. You should be able to do whatever you want to said hardware. So what you signed a contract? That is with the carrier you chose NOT THE MAKER OF THE DEVICE! Its all the same when you buy a laptop. if you decide "nah i want Linux on it" you dont void any type of waranties when you do that. why not the same with Phones?!

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 23:42

60. 9thWonderful (Posts: 230; Member since: 24 Jan 2013)


Adding Linux is not tampering with the hardware, that's software. Try tampering with your laptop hardware & then try warranting it out. It's not just phones. You can't modify the hardware bc it affects the warranty on the equipment. Not sure why ppl think this is unreasonable. It's really not that big of a deal.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:11 4

6. BadAssAbe (Posts: 434; Member since: 22 Apr 2011)


Straight Talk (ATT Network)
$45 for unlimited everything
Nexus 4 (eventually)
Perfect plan

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:29 3

13. regkilla (Posts: 83; Member since: 13 Sep 2012)


Too bad they slow your data speeds down after 2 GB of usage.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:35 3

18. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)


Tmobile is cheaper if you use less than 100 min of voice and want 5gb data + unlimited 3g its only $30.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:17 3

9. ramonleonjr62 (Posts: 48; Member since: 17 Oct 2012)


screw then all !!!!!!

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:24 5

11. nnaatthhaannx2 (Posts: 820; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)


I totally thought this was about Apple and slide-to-unlock before I read the artilce, lol.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:25 1

12. regkilla (Posts: 83; Member since: 13 Sep 2012)


glad my Verizon iPhone 5 already comes unlocked ;)

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:29 1

14. Captain_Doug (Posts: 747; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


What's the purpose of unlocking a carrier specific phone? You can't switch carriers...

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:32 2

16. regkilla (Posts: 83; Member since: 13 Sep 2012)


I'm not on contract with it so I could use it on T-Mobile as well.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:45 2

26. Captain_Doug (Posts: 747; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


Eventually true. I'm pretty excited about T-mobile refarming their 1900 mhz spectrum. I was also unaware of the iphone 5's radios. That's cool it has both CDMA and GSM. Too bad T-mobile will use 1700 mhz for LTE which isn't supported by the iphone 5.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:54

33. Captain_Doug (Posts: 747; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


I forgot t-mobile already has some of that finished so depending on where you live you're in luck. You probably know that though.... I'm gonna go learn more about everything.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:50 2

29. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2650; Member since: 26 May 2011)


You can't switch carriers with a Verizon device (unless it has a GSM radio in it), but you can unlock to switch between AT&T, T-Mobile, or any regional GSM carrier.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:54 1

32. Captain_Doug (Posts: 747; Member since: 10 Feb 2012)


I understand that. I assumed the Verizon iphone didn't have a GSM radio but it does. It isn't widely supported by t-mobile yet but will be.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 20:50 1

55. networkdood (Posts: 6250; Member since: 31 Mar 2010)


Even if the Verizon device has a GSM band, it is not guaranteed to work properly with T-Mobile or AT&T. And, with LTE, you even have more differences between all of the carrier's LTE networks. LTE works on different bands, too:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LTE_networks

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:30

15. richardyarrell2011 (banned) (Posts: 510; Member since: 16 Mar 2011)


Oh well

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:36 5

19. cripton805 (Posts: 907; Member since: 18 Mar 2012)


Next thing you know, we wont be able to paint our cars or add cases to our phones.

We already get tickets for leaving the trash can out, or growing carrots in your front yard.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:37 5

20. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)


Just unlocked my phone before it becomes illegal again... Hopefully they put a permanent law that will force carriers to let you do what you want with your phone. You would think the carriers would want you to mess with your phone so when you break it they get to charge you $600 for a new one.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:39 2

21. nyamo (Posts: 274; Member since: 19 Mar 2011)


my carrier susidies are over anyway, i'm tired of all the bloat they put on, if it weren't for my wife's phone failing earlier than anticipated we would already be on the prepaid train

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:44

24. OptimusOne (Posts: 694; Member since: 22 May 2012)


nvm. comment was stupid

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:50 1

28. rusticguy (Posts: 2819; Member since: 11 Aug 2012)


Good India doesn't have this carrier locked crap.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:55 4

34. dorianb (Posts: 347; Member since: 24 Oct 2012)


The value of a NEXUS just went up 100 fold..

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 16:15 1

37. HDShatter (Posts: 1021; Member since: 17 Jan 2013)


It will be grey zone, not illegal.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 15:58 2

35. chris_t610 (Posts: 14; Member since: 30 Mar 2012)


Now I think this is plain stupidity. Technically, any devices that are still under contract means these are still under the carrier's discretion -- but again, these are the phones themselves (meaning the carrier reserves the right to pull back the device should the customer chooses not to continue with the service within the contract period).

As for the software, the end user has the right to do whatsoever he/she wishes to do with the said device and that includes rooting/jailbreaking. Otherwise, they might as well consider downloading apps, documents, and the like to be illegal as well since these are manipulated by the user.

Bottom line; as long as the customer is paying for his services, I think the customer reserves the right to do whatever pleases him with the device.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 16:09 3

36. speckledapple (Posts: 877; Member since: 29 Sep 2011)


I could give a damn whether or not they think we should unlock the device or not. But the device is MINE and I would love anyone to tell me differently. Last time I checked there are no guys in suits coming to my door taking my phone if i do not pay my bill. I pay for the service. Man, what is up with this country.

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 16:21 1

38. Atlas (Posts: 157; Member since: 15 Apr 2012)


Is is it just in the US?

posted on 24 Jan 2013, 16:22 4

39. 14545 (Posts: 1063; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)


Ok, that's fine. Then if I don't "own" the hardware, then stop making me pay for it. They should force the carrier, with that kind of logic, to give the phones free with our service......But now I am making too much sense. Stop allowing the carriers to lock phones then we won't have a problem.

posted on 25 Jan 2013, 00:07

63. 9thWonderful (Posts: 230; Member since: 24 Jan 2013)


They do offer phones for free with the service, but unfortunately not the ones that anyone wants right? You can't have your cake & eat it too bro. You're paying $199 for a $650 phone. You dont make any sense at all. Which would you rather do, pay $500-600 each time you want a new phone to say you "own" it or pay $99-199 to pipe down enjoy some of the latest & greatest phones out there? People throw around their measly dollars & feel that they are entitled to tell a business what should happen. Just don't get that kind of logic.

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