January 25, 2013

Unlocking your smartphone will be illegal starting next week

Starting next week, it will be illegal to unlock your smartphone without permission from the carrier from whom you purchased the device.

In October 2012, the Library of Congress determined that unlocking a smartphone without carrier permission violated the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and was therefore illegal.

Following its decision, the Library of Congress issued a 90 day window in which smartphones could be purchased and unlocked. The LOC’s window ends on January 26, at which time unlocking your smartphone could move forward with criminal charges.

The new rules from the Library Of Congress  proclaim that it is legal to jailbreak smartphones, but it is illegal to jailbreak tablets and illegal to unlock phones without first receiving permission from the original wireless carrier.

Most networks will allow for legal unlocking of a smartphone after 90 days of use; however, those rules could change now that obtaining unlock codes will become illegal.

Some wireless customers will not be affected by the new unlocking laws. For example, Verizon CDMA based phones come with unlocked SIM card slots for GSM networks. Case in point, the iPhone 5 is unlocked upon purchase in order to work on worldwide networks outside of Verizon’s US based CDMA network.

Most wireless carriers choose to lock their smartphones in order to retain customers.
You may recall that, back in 2010, it was ruled that the DMCA did not cover the unlocking of smartphones. In order to make the act of smartphone unlocked illegal, the Library of Congress needed to enact new rules.

Do you think wireless carriers should back off and allow users to unlock their smartphone as they see fit? Or should cell phone locking not exist in the first place?

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