It may become illegal to unlock your phone starting Saturday

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



1. JonBjSig

Posts: 176; Member since: Nov 17, 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.

3. JunitoNH

Posts: 1946; Member since: Feb 15, 2012

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

27. Mxyzptlk unregistered

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.

41. Nadr1212

Posts: 741; Member since: Sep 22, 2012

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

49. Mxyzptlk unregistered

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

43. true1984

Posts: 865; Member since: May 23, 2012

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

50. Mxyzptlk unregistered

If you bought it new and off contract yeah.

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 :)

47. CheapSocks

Posts: 21; Member since: Nov 07, 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.

51. Mxyzptlk unregistered

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

52. OptimusOne

Posts: 694; Member since: May 22, 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

57. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 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.

72. iCandy

Posts: 46; Member since: Dec 07, 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.

53. OptimusOne

Posts: 694; Member since: May 22, 2012

Taco You are a typical iPhone user Ignorant Stupid One sided

56. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 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.

67. CheapSocks

Posts: 21; Member since: Nov 07, 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.

4. BadAssAbe

Posts: 507; Member since: Apr 22, 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? ;-)

25. OptimusOne

Posts: 694; Member since: May 22, 2012

how about boehner AND obama

22. medicci37

Posts: 1361; Member since: Nov 19, 2011

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

42. Zero0

Posts: 592; Member since: Jul 05, 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.

48. torr310

Posts: 1659; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

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

69. jsdechavez

Posts: 799; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

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

2. JunitoNH

Posts: 1946; Member since: Feb 15, 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.

7. Captain_Doug

Posts: 1037; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

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

8. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 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.

10. Captain_Doug

Posts: 1037; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

T-mobile fills me with hope.


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 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??

23. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 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.


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 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

31. gaby1451

Posts: 119; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

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

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