Unlocking your phone is now against the law in the U.S.

Unlocking your phone is now against the law in the U.S.
Now that the weekend is here, unlocking your phone has become illegal. As harsh as it seems, anyone who unlocks his or her handset in the U.S. without written consent from his or her carrier, could face civil or even criminal action. At most, you could face a $2,500 fine if you unlock your handset merely to use another carrier. For example, there are nearly 2 million Apple iPhone users who have unlocked their phone, and use T-Mobile's unlimited service. If you unlock phones for profit because you're, say, a cellphone reseller, then it is a whole other ballgame and you could face a half a million dollars in fines and some prison time.

So what happened to make doing something to your own personal property against the law? The Library of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office no longer give cellphones an exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The intent of the law was to prevent infringement of copyrights, not to specifically ban the unlocking of your new smartphone. For most people, the change won't make any difference because the majority of mobile phone users don't unlock their handset.

If your phone was unlocked prior to this weekend, don't keep staring at the door waiting for the cops to come bursting in as you are grandfathered in. Besides, no one really expects the carriers to go after their own customers anyway. Despite that, at least one attorney recommends not to unlock that new handset you just bought. Brad Shear, an attorney who is an expert on social media says, "I don't see carriers going aggressively after people, but bottom line is that I would not recommend violating this provision of the law."

The rule against unlocking phones will probably be changed in 2015, the next time it is due to be looked at. Until then, you can always buy a phone that comes unlocked. Apple, for example, sells an unlocked version of the Apple iPhone 5 starting at $649 for the 16GB model.


source: ABCNews

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73 Comments

2. jsdechavez

Posts: 799; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

This seems reasonable for a country where most are plan/postpaid subscribers.. They get free or discounted/subsidized handsets depending on the cost of the subscription and locked to that network. It's ok that the phone be locked and be used only to the network that paid for it. However, prepaid subscriptions deserve to be unlocked. Handsets on prepaid will have to be purchased unlocked or in-full, without network subsidies of course.

5. frydaexiii

Posts: 1476; Member since: Dec 01, 2011

No, it isn't reasonable. Carriers sell us discounted/subsidized handsets because we chose them and have decided to tie ourselves down to a 2 year contract with them. What we do with the phone shouldn't be any part of their business since we still have to pay our subscription every month until the 2 years is up and if we terminate our contract before the 2 years, we pay a penalty which would cover the cost of the subsidy/discount the carriers gave us in the first place. Now that's reasonable.

28. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

It would be OK if you where not tied for a contract, if you find your carrier was crappy cancel the contract playing around 1k for it, would it be fair to now be forbidden to use that phone on another carrier just because someone decided to wave his little finger on me and say FU

34. frydaexiii

Posts: 1476; Member since: Dec 01, 2011

Well, that's just how it works here in Singapore. You sign a 2 year contract, you buy a high-end phone for cheap and it's yours to keep and do whatever the hell you want with it unless you decide to break your contract, in which case you pay the rest of the phone cost (which is usually about S$200-S$300) and you still get to keep the phone. Which is why it is rather common for the folks here who don't use a smartphone to buy one on contract, use the line as usual with their regular phone and sell the smartphone for a profit (Bought for subsidized price of $200, sold for about $500).

3. frydaexiii

Posts: 1476; Member since: Dec 01, 2011

WTF is this? So in America, when you "buy" a phone you're really just "loaning" it from the carriers? Ha, it's times like these I'm glad I don't live there...

6. e.wvu unregistered

Yeah, I sadly have to agree. I live in the U.S. and it seems like all we worry about are small issues, while we ignore the big ones.

30. Mxyzptlk unregistered

Well you are buying it subsidized. You don't really own the phone until you either wait out your contract or pay the etf.

35. Guile

Posts: 9; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

That has nothing to do with the subject: If you pay the phone or cancel your contract, it's still illegal to unlock your phone.

82. donfem

Posts: 708; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

I find myself agreeing with you. Albeit with mixed feeling

4. regkilla

Posts: 87; Member since: Sep 13, 2012

Glad my Verizon iPhone 5 comes Unlocked out the box.

68. darkkjedii

Posts: 31034; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Lucky u

7. SonyXperiaNexus

Posts: 374; Member since: Oct 01, 2012

seems fair enough.

8. XPERIA-KNIGHT unregistered

Completely and UTTERLY ridiculous! ......its things like this that make me ashamed of this country...... The more america tries to "control" what people do and buy.....the more america will continue to keep its citizens in BONDAGE...........have a good rest of your sunday people

9. wendygarett unregistered

unlock it or not, you still pick Verizon in the end, what's the point of unlocked it when you pick the one and only carrier and use it for the rest of your life?

10. Nikolas.Oliver

Posts: 1574; Member since: Jul 01, 2012

Carriers subsidize the phone you buy, carriers have rights to prohibit unlocking cellphones, if you don't want that to happen just buy the unlocked one, it is that simple

36. Guile

Posts: 9; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

That has nothing to do with the subject: If you pay the phone or cancel your contract, it's still illegal to unlock your phone.

11. Azure01

Posts: 127; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

So basically T-mobile has until 2015 to get their hands on the iPhone.

19. big.e927

Posts: 94; Member since: Nov 21, 2012

No, T-Mobile is already getting their own iPhones. The unlocking being.illegal is effective today, so no more taking your unlocked iPhone to T-Mobile UNLESS you have the original carrier for that phone approve of it. So either way, you'd get stuck being AT&T's bitch either way. Most likely, carriers will charge you a fee so you can unlock your phone, it seems as the only "fair" alternative. >.>

12. lonewolf2873

Posts: 40; Member since: Nov 21, 2012

What is the definition of "unlocking"? Is root considered unlocking or is it just unlocking to go to a different carrier? Unlocking is a pretty broad word. Unless I don't fully understand root and it does unlocking to get a different carrier.

33. roscuthiii

Posts: 2383; Member since: Jul 18, 2010

Unlocking has more to do with a phones ability to work on other carriers. Carriers all work within certain ranges of radio frequency bandwidth that they own/license. The cell radios inside the phone can usually operate within a wide array of those frequencies. (It's more efficient for the manufacturers to produce one radio chip as opposed to having to manufacture multiple versions.) The carriers then include firmware which limits you to use only their frequency. Unless they have roaming contracts, whereby they can really jack up the cell charges. Rooting is still legal as far as I know.

13. Tre-Nitty

Posts: 470; Member since: Nov 16, 2010

This isn't gonna stop ppl and especially resellers from unlocking. How are they gonna prove who unlocked the phone and further more, who is gonna care enough to investigate it?

69. darkkjedii

Posts: 31034; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

IPS# for those using Internet. Unless there's another way.

14. droiddomination

Posts: 203; Member since: Dec 01, 2011

They are taking away your rights and freedoms one at a time. Pretty soon will all be hauling stones to help build a pyramid for our pharoah. Pathetic! I am still going to unlock every phone I get! F the govt!

15. md227a

Posts: 228; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

What about people like me who buy carrier branded phones at retail price. Yes, its branded but I didn't get subsidy I should be able to unlock if I want to.

20. big.e927

Posts: 94; Member since: Nov 21, 2012

Again, you must get permission from your carrier which will more than likely require you to pay a fee. Nothing to excessive I'm sure, but still a pain in the ass and degrading, which sucks, because all major carriers besides Sprint are charging too f**king much.

71. JC557

Posts: 1919; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

Before there was no fee for Verizon. You just have to be in good standing for 6 months and they'll unlock the phone for free. Now that this has passed I wonder if Verizon will start implementing fees. Since my family and I (extended as well) have been with Verizon for 10 years or so, the carrier better continue to unlock my phone for free.

16. RGreen

Posts: 83; Member since: Jul 06, 2012

Hot Damn, one bad apple! My Guess is all smartphones that are unlocked craple messed it up for everyone I'm getting this right or this only apply to apple?

31. protozeloz

Posts: 5396; Member since: Sep 16, 2010

This is a load of.....

37. Guile

Posts: 9; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

It's strange, while in other country like France it's illegal for a carrier to refuse to unlock a device, even more, they have to provide the service; in the USA it is forbidden... Yes it seems retard.

40. legend1

Posts: 104; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

this sucks big time :(

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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