New US Law Prohibits The Unlocking Of Cell Phones Starting Saturday [Updates]

unlock cell phone   New US Law Prohibits The Unlocking Of Cell Phones Starting Saturday [Updates]A controversial new US law goes into effect on Saturday 26 January which prohibits cell phone users from unlocking their devices so they can be used with another carrier. The new law, which is overseen by the Librarian of Congress, is part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and is applicable to all newly purchased mobile phones purchased after January 26.

Many users unlock their phones when they travel to another country so their device can work on another network. Phones may also be unlocked to take advantage of features and services offered by a different carrier. However, phone companies like Verizon sell the iPhone 5 as an unlocked device, and AT&T will unlock a phone after it is out of contract.

The new rule prohibits cell phone users from using special tools and codes to unlock cell phones on their own and without the permission of the carrier they purchased the phone from. Note, unlocking a phone is different from jailbreaking a phone; the latter allows users to add non-official features and software to their device.

We the people   New US Law Prohibits The Unlocking Of Cell Phones Starting Saturday [Updates]

In response to the law, the “We the People” website has posted a petition that asks the White House and Librarian of Congress “to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes phone unlocking permanently legal.”

The petition requires 94,991 signatures, of which at this writing, 5,009 have been collected so far. The petition claims that the new rule “reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full.”

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Source: Mashable

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102 Comments -

Jorge RGs

to bad :(

Samanthinder

ikr we at least dont have that law (in england)

luis

this law is pointless people are going to keep unlocking sell phones , its a business and there are people that doesnt have the money to pay a regular cell and they going to buy unlock phones

Bakari Chavanu

I’ve never unlocked my phone, but I don’t see how they will enforce the new rule. So not sure what’s the point.

Nermal

The network provider will know if the phone is unlocked.. this law allows them to take full legal action against the phones owner.

Still a bullshiit law though..

Elizabeth

So much for “land of the free.” Only if you can afford an attorney, and if you can’t, then… you’re screwed. F7U12 Citizens United

OrlandoNative

The network may know, that doesn’t really mean anything. Any phone unlocked *before* the “deadline” is ok. And any *new* service using an unlocked phone probably is too… …since it wasn’t unlocked while under a contract with that provider.

Or it could have been purchased directly from the phone manufacturer, unlocked.

So just what *legal* action are they going to take?

If the provider will sell service contracts to people who bring their own phones with them, I don’t see how they can discriminate between those folks and ones who originally bought their phones from that carrier.

And most of the providers do sell such service.

Jerrel Bijlhout

When i sign a contract which says I will have to pay a monthly fee and receive a phone for that… Who decides what i do with my phone?

The monthly fee doesn’t change.

So if i want to smash into a wall, run it over with a car, put it to swim in my bathtub or unlock it and sign another service contract doesn’t change anything.

The first contract is still there and i will pay for it.

You want to keep me from unlocking my phone? Give me the best service and keep me happy. So… i will sign the petition.

Bakari Chavanu

Good point, Jerrel. Thanks for the feedback.

Guy McDowell

Let’s apply this law’s ‘logic’ to other products in our life.

Cars – You can buy this Ford, but you have to fill up only at Shell stations for the first three years.

Toasters – here’s a lovely four-slice toaster but you must only use Wonderbread.

Luggage – Sorry this luggage can only be used in North America. If you go to Europe, you’ll have to buy luggage when you get there.

It’s a stupid law.

Sas

Haha very nice.

Karsten Hormann

I’m sorry, but you do not buy a car from Shell, you do not buy a toaster form Wonderbread, and you do not buy your luggage from the government of the United States. There is no connection there, while with cell phones, the carriers act as distributors.

Guy McDowell

The point remains the same. You bought the product, why should you be locked into the service?

Perhaps they discount the product if you’ll contract to use the services for x-amount of months. That’s the current trend, and makes sense. The company subsidizes the phone with the intent of making that up on the service.

But if you just buy the phone at full price, why not be able to choose your provider?

You can buy a car from Costco and they do have gas stations – should they be allowed to do this sort of thing too? Of course not.

Paul

“But if you just buy the phone at full price, why not be able to choose your provider?”

No problem, you can buy an unlocked phone at full price, but since it is already unlocked, you don’t unlock it and so break no laws.

What the “everything should be free” people want is to buy a cheap subsidized phone, then unlock it and break the contract. Then they are shocked that the carrier doesn’t like that tactic.

OrlandoNative

But if they “break the contract”; they get charged an “early termination fee”. If they don’t pay it, it goes to collections, and on their credit report… ….just like any other “deadbeat” account. And that’s often more of a deterrent than the charge itself.

I have one phone I bought “cheap” on eBay, and one that was subsidized by the carrier I use, and *both* have 24 month contracts; and they both work quite well with the carrier’s network. But they are also both *mine*. If, for some reason, I decided to break the contract early, I don’t have to give the subsidized phone back; and, actually, they don’t WANT me to. So if it’s *my* phone, why can’t I do what I want with it?

In any case, there’s no *law* about unlocking. There’s an “opinion” or “interpretation” by the Librarian, and, indeed, that same “office” (though maybe not the same person) has for years “interpreted” the DMCA exactly the opposite way since it’s original inception. That, by itself, highlites the silliness of this “interpretation”; since the DMCA itself hasn’t changed.

It’s not unusual for a new LAW (or changes to an existing one) to make something previously ok illegal, but that isn’t what’s happened here.

Elizabeth

Sooner or later the case will be that if you buy a Google phone you can only have a Gmail account, if you buy a Windows phone you can only have a Hotmail (or whatever it’s called these days) account, and if you buy an iPhone you have to wear a black turtleneck and dark rinse jeans every day the rest of your life (or something specific to Apple).

Someone has already demonstrated on YouTube how to format your smartphone and put a Linux “mobile” distro on it instead of Chrome or Windows Mobile or iOS. Is that guy now a wanted felon, an evildoer terrorist out to cripple the American economy by installing “free” software that isn’t even able to be “pirated,” because it’s FLOSS? What about people who make Hackintoshes or people who run “illicit” copies of Windows in Linux or Mac VMs or Parallels? Hello, Justice Department? North Korea is gearing up to launch a rocket that could nuke California, and people who unlock cell phones are the terrorists? What is wrong with this country already?

Oh, but of course, the law doesn’t apply to Obama if he decides to pirate a Beyonce album for listening on his unlocked CrackBerry. It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no technocrat’s son…

wolfkin

it does apply if you elaborate on it.

You buy a Toyota car for a few hundred dollars and now you pay $20/gal gas from Shell for 3 years. You’re getting your primary service from the Shell station and you’re over paying on gas to help subsidize the depressed cost of your car. in a universe where this happens Toyota and Shell will become basically the same company with different names.. heck they might be now, stuff like that happens. Carriers are distributors but their also primary vendors. Outside of Apple most people buy their phones from their carrier’s store.

back on topic:
this doesn’t make sense because unlocking a phone doesn’t get you out of a contract. It merely prevents you from renewing your contract. Generally speaking that misunderstanding would benefit the carriers as people are forced to pay termination charges on a contract that’s already overcharged. So they get their money in termination charges that if i recall don’t factor in time remaining. It’s not like locked phones prevent people from switching carriers.. it just prevents them from switching during contract.

OrlandoNative

For most carriers, it doesn’t prevent contract renewal either. Most carriers will create a new service contract, even with an unlocked phone… …you can come to ATT or T-mobile with one, and they’ll sign you up for service – sometimes even at a discounted rate; since they’re *not* subsidizing your phone.

Also, in practice, once you’ve gone past your *contracted* service period, it’s not like your service actually *ends*; it keeps on going until you terminate it, or stop paying for it. You’ll still get a bill each month for service. However, if you decide to change plans, or get a new phone, THEN you’ll probably get another contract for 24 more months.

Bakari Chavanu

That makes sense to me, Guy.

Max

If the carrier is selling the phone unlocked then the law doesn’t apply?

Bakari Chavanu

Apparently so. The Librarian of Congress just want to make sure you getting permission from the carrier to unlock a phone you paid for. But who knows.

Paul

If you buy it unlocked, you don’t unlock it, therefor you aren’t breaking any law. You don’t need a carrier’s permission to unlock a phone that wasn’t locked in the first place, but if you think about it, if you buy it unlocked, there isn’t a carrier involved in the first place until you choose one, and since they didn’t subsidize the phone, they shouldn’t charge a subsidized based contract.

NotoriousZeus

SIgned and stamped.. just wish our voices mad a difference sigh!

Bakari Chavanu

Notorious, I have read that sometimes these online petition do make a difference. But I think in this case, we may have to vote with our dollars.

OrlandoNative

I wonder what the Librarian of Congress was thinking. Cell phones are *sold* by the cellular providers, but they are not *made* by them. The operating systems (which is the only thing that’s actually copywrited, if anything is) is written by others – Android by Google, Windows mobile by Microsoft, IOS by Apple, etc. Not by the cellular carriers. Thus, having to get *their* approval is like getting Barnes and Noble’s or Amazon’s approval to copy a book. You might get it, but they actually have no say in whether you can or not – only the publisher, or perhaps the author, can give it, since they are the copyright holders.

In any case, “unlocking” a cell phone doesn’t have *anything* to do with copyright – copyright only prohibits you from *copying* a work, not removing it and replacing it with something else, which is what changing a code by “unlocking” the phone really does. This whole area should never have been under any DMCA auspices to begin with.

Someone needs to take this to court.

The interesting thing here is the article talks about *new* phones purchased after Jan 26. It says nothing about a *used* phone after that date. It would be interesting to see just what the “rule” has to say about those. In any case, if you buy a used phone, how would you *know* when it was originally sold?

Sas

Totally agree. Unlocking does not change the operating system. It just enables the phone to be used with another carrier. It should shouldn’t be copyright. It does not copy anything, just removes something.

Bakari Chavanu

Excellent points, OrlandoNative.

OrlandoNative

Another point. Copyright is a part of “intellectual property”. One of the prominent things about “intellectual property” is that if you don’t “protect your rights”; you *LOSE* them. Only the intellectual property owner has the right to say what you can and can’t do with intellectual property they own.

The Librarian is not the intellectual property owner. If the individual owners of that intellectual property defer to his judgement, rather than enforce their own licensing terms, then they’ve in essence abandoned their property, and it devolves into the public domain.

If the phone manufacturers, and the writers of the various operating systems the phones use let this go on, without contesting this decision, then legally according to intellectual property law the phone software should become public domain, and no one has the right to tell us what we can or can’t do with the copies of it we own.

Elizabeth

But with regard to piracy…

Explain to me how a Justin Bieber album qualifies as “intellectual” property. Most Beliebers have an IQ of 404.

OrlandoNative

Elizabeth, “intellectual property” is a term. It doesn’t mean anything or anyone with any actual intelligence actually *created* it. :D It was probably coined by lawyers and politicians, after all :D

Actually, with lots of “music” these days I’d have to agree with you. Cats on a hot tin roof would probably be more pleasing.

Elizabeth

Freedom of speech comes at a steep price nowadays. You’re welcome to say whatever you like (to an ever-shrinking extent), but only if you’ve got deep pockets for a damn good attorney will anyone even bother to hear you.

Stupid Obama needs to listen to ALL THE PEOPLE and not just his POS Hollywood/Silicon Valley buddies. God knows he’s got big enough ears.

OrlandoNative

Indeed. While I can at least sympathize with banning someone casually yelling “FIRE!” (falsely) in a crowded room, the current trend in attempting to stamp out any speech that is not “politically correct” should be troubling to *anyone* who values “civil rights”… …except it isn’t, if it’s speech espousing something they don’t agree with. Which, arguably, is *EXACTLY* why the First Amendment, and, for that matter, the entire Bill of Rights was enacted in the first place. Now days, if you criticize the government, you’re some kind of fanatic; if you criticize some some policy, you’re not “progressive”; though often those policies don’t seem to make any “progress” anyway; or if you have some non-complimentary comment about some group, be it ethnic, or some other demarcation, then you’re racist or promulgating a “hate crime”. LOL, heaven forbid (no doubt that will anger the atheists here) anyone say anything “bad” about gay people, but let the Boy Scouts exercise their right to associating with folks of their choice (as long as they’re not gay) and all of a sudden “freedom of association” goes right out the window.

Personally, I think *anyone* should have the right to say what they want – but be responsible for it. We already have laws on the books for slander, libel, etc… …if what is said is false, then use them. If it isn’t, well, then, tough luck. If the speech incites other unlawful acts, well, we’ve made “conspiracy” a crime in just about everything, even in cases where actually *committing* the act you’re conspiring for may not be a crime. :D Similarly with freedom to associate – it’s always implied the right to *not* associate with folks you don’t want to. If you don’t like it, the obvious answer is to form your own group of like minded individuals, not try to force yourselves on folks that don’t want to associate with you for whatever reason.

I think that most of the problem is that we’ve carried over what needs to be done to “level the playing field” in the workplace and a few other places into what may be public aspects of our personal lives. We have the right to our own personal preferences, and sometimes they’re not the same as what is required in other venues. So what? That’s what “diversity” is all about, isn’t it?

Elizabeth

Re: “progressive” legislation — ever heard of the old saying, the opposite of pro-gress is Con-gress? :-)

I agree with you that political correctness has run amok, but that’s because laws restricting people’s rights for arbitrary reasons like their race, gender or sexual orientation were to the extreme at one point in society too. But neither is the way to go; two extremes do not a moderate compromise make.

Re: the gay thing. Personally, while I believe gay people should have the right to get married to their partners, I don’t want to hear about what “makes them” gay, as in I don’t want to hear about gay sexuality because I don’t want to hear about anyone’s sex lives, gay, straight or otherwise. But the minute I or anyone says that, I’m a homophobic bigot. I don’t want to see boyfriends and girlfriends sucking face on TV either. I’m opposed to any form of PDA (public display of affection, not the precursor to tablet PCs, lol).

If I say I don’t want to see any sex or even kissing or scanty clothes, I’m a prude, and my views are better suited to fundamentalist Islam or Puritan witch hunts. I changed the channel from Beyonce’s slutty Super Bowl show to the “puppy bowl” on Animal Planet, and someone called me a racist just because Beyonce is black. I feel the same way about Madonna, and probably would have been the type to make Elvis sing the jailhouse rock in an actual prison for the hip gyrations long ago. You can’t even say the word “slut” anymore WRT calling it as you see it, because all of a sudden you’re condoning rape?!?

A little off-topic on people’s belief that openly stating likes and dislikes on moral grounds is somehow bigotry, but only a little, as both the article and the commentary have to do with government and the court of knee-jerk public opinion restricting the lives and decisions of private individuals and limiting debate, sharing, and innovation. DMCA should be done away with, period; so should the notion of a “hate crime” because it has to do with the opinion of a person one way or another. Murder is murder; assault is assault, and terrorism is terrorism, regardless of whether it’s demographically motivated or not. But it’s only been maybe since Obama was elected in 2008 that any valid criticism of Obama or Democrats became racism, whereas any valid criticism of the GOP meant you were a communist or an “Earth-religion pagan” (a term many Republicans apply, in one way or another, to environmentalists and those who promote awareness of climate change). Both sides, however, support DMCA because GOP are up the cavity of business and corporations, while Dems are up the cavity of Hollywood and “big media.” None of them really care about the interests of We The People.

I still want MUO to put up a post at least discussing the suicide of Reddit founder Aaron Schwartz and opening up the floor for debate about the open-access movement. MUO is one of the top-trafficked technology blogs and Aaron’s death merits mentioning. Whoever the editors are, please put up a post about Aaron, about Reddit and about the open-access movement. IMNSHO the boy genius is a martyr for the cause, whereas Julian Assange is a political exile, Kim Dotcom has been vindicated, and Brad Manning, Gottfried Svartholm and Gary McKinnon are all political prisoners, among numerous others. All of them and their families deserve public apologies from our corporate-sponsored governments and a full and unequivocal pardoning.

OrlandoNative

Elizabeth, loved your comment on “Congress” and “progress” – no, I hadn’t heard it, but it *does* have a lot of truth to it.

I also agree with many of your points, except I’m not so radical on the first one.

I don’t think that a *moderate* amount of PDA is bad. Indeed, humans being humans, I think it’s *normal*. The problem lies – like it does in many areas – as to what is *reasonable*. Hugging or kissing someone at the airport when you go to pick them up is one thing, dropping your clothes and having sex with them in the concourse (no matter what sort of relationship you have with them or how long you’ve been apart) is something entirely different. The only rub lies in figuring out where the boundary *is*. Sometimes that’s easy, sometimes a bit more difficult.

wolfkin

it’s pretty clear that the carrier lobby tricked congress by telling them “unlocking” is the same as “jailbreaking” and then drafted the legislation with “unlocking” to hurt the consumer more.

OrlandoNative

I would normally agree with that, except that “jailbreaking” still isn’t illegal under the DMCA. And, for a long time, neither was “unlocking”.

The problem as I see it is that it should be the copyright office (or even the FCC, since this is a radio frequency device) that determines whether “unlocking” is a violation of *COPYRIGHT* rather than the “Librarian”; who probably doesn’t have a clue.

wolfkin

to respond to that last part the legislation specifies the contract. you’re not allowed to unlock a phone under contract so if you bought a used phone.. if you were on contract then presumably no you can’t unlock it but if you’re contract expires you should be able to unlock it

as for the other thing.. jailbreaking allows the potential for copyright violation. This doesn’t. Hence my suggestion that someone told the librarian that they were the same thing and that lead to this with language speaking about “unlocking” but intentions towards “jailbreaking” because i perfectly understand why you’d want to stop jailbreaking.. no idea why you’d want to stop unlocking. The only thing this does is stop people from paying ETFs because what’s the point when you can’t unlock your phone and bring it to a new carrier.

OrlandoNative

But even a contract clause makes no sense. *IF* you bought the phone, it’s yours to do with as you wish. Even if you’ve “financed” the purchase. *IF* you break the provider contract, they’re going to charge you an “early termination” fee – so they’re still getting their subsidized part back.

When you buy a car or a house, even if you have it financed (a car loan or a mortgage); you don’t have your “creditor” telling you which brand on gas to use, after all. Or what color to paint it, or whether you can add a room.

In the case of the phone OS, at least as far as Android goes, it’s open source… …at least to consumers. Given that, you’ve *already* got the permission of the copyright holder to mod it to your heart’s content. Obviously Windows and IOS may be somewhat different; but, for reasons of principle, I won’t buy a phone which uses those.

“Jailbreaking” doesn’t automatically imply an intent to violate copyright, either. It’s often used to allow access to “outside” stores (in the case of Apple and the iPhone); or to allow folks more control over their privacy (certain “monitoring” apps can’t be stopped from “userland”; but require system authority to stop); neither of which cases involve copyright infringement to begin with.

wolfkin

what’s crazy is I think i literally made exactly the same comment on Slashdot.

For the record in case it’s unclear. I’m in agreement with you. Except for the jailbreaking thing. Yes I agree that jailbreaking doesnt imply intent but the potential is there and I could understand lawmakers trying to stop it. It would fail because under further analysis (such as action doesn’t imply intent) but I can see where they could want to try to start something. But this contract thing doen’t make sense for exactly the reasons you’re saying. The only thing this will do is stop someone from switching carriers before the contract expires. And there’s no reason for them to do that because with ETFs not being scaled to time left they get their money (not that they need to with prices being so inflated) anyway.

Paul

This has nothing to do with copyright, it has everything to do with you buying a phone you know is subsidized so it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg at the time of purchase, but you agree to a fixed length contract that includes the monthly service you choose AND another amount that repays the carrier for the subsidy. In essence, they are loaning you money to help with the purchase price, and then you repay that loan plus interest at a rate selected by the carrier. This is not rocket science, yet you people want the carrier to subsidize your phone but not pay that back. Yes, the carriers may charge way more than the subsidy by the time the contract expires, but you agreed to the stated terms when you bought the phone. This wasn’t a sly move on the carrier’s side and then tell you about it after you signed, you agreed with full knowledge of the details of what you’ll pay each and every month until the specified date you agreed to. Why is this concept so hard to understand? If you don’t like the terms, please tell me how you were coerced to sign against your will? I’ll wait. …. ….. …. I thought so.

OrlandoNative

Perhaps, but if THAT is the reason, it’s something *entirely* outside of the scope of the DMCA, and thus shouldn’t be something dictated by it. And NOTHING you’ve said has *any* bearing on a phone being locked or unlocked, anyway. Why did you even make the post?

In any case, an *unlocked* phone should work just as well on the original provider’s network for the length of the contract as a “locked” one would. So what real difference does it make? Even if I buy an unlocked phone from the actual phone manufacturer, and then go and get service from the cellular company; unless I go month-to-month they *still* want a 2 year contract…. …and it will probably *still* be discounted. When I first went to t-mobile, I got the “unlimited” plan (24 month contract) for a discounted price, but used phones I already had purchased elsewhere. (1 unlocked; originally from ATT, 1 not, bought on eBay). As the salesperson said, I could get a discounted *rate*, or a discounted *phone* – my choice – but the *service* was a 24 month contract.

The fact of the matter is that the DMCA isn’t there to enforce *contracts*. Contract law already does that. It’s to enforce *copyright*; which *isn’t* a contract, per se; even if it *is* analogous to one in some ways.

And, as I noted in a previous post, contracts really don’t matter. Whether you unlock your phone and go with another carrier, or just go and get an entirely *new* phone and service with another carrier and toss your old phone in a cabinet or the trash can; your original *contracted* carrier is going to hit you with an early termination charge which no doubt covers any subsidy they may have made if you switch services in either case.

So this whole DMCA thing is ridiculous on the face of it to begin with.

Dany Bouffard

I am sure glad to ba a citizen of Canada and not US. I feel bad for guys in the US. This law should be considered agains one of your laws somewhere, I think you should fight this law. Organize petitions and stuff against it.

Bakari Chavanu

Dany, I’m not sure how they are going to even enforce it. Are they lock people up? Fine them? Take their phone away?

Sas

This law is entirely stupid. How does the government know if we have unlocked our mobiles and just like jailbreaking, people will just keep on doing it. The rates of unlocking will probably go up just like what happened to TPB. Each time they put TPB to the court their traffic increased.

Ivan Vucic

luckily i live far away from this retarded law!

Bakari Chavanu

Yep, this new rule seems embarrassing. I was surprised to read about it.

Elizabeth

Red, white and blue is now nothing but $$$ GREEN $$$

And it’s got nothing to do with environmentalism.

Jorge S.

Locking the phones to make them carrier-specific (and to remove features) is what should be illegal. When you buy a plan from any carrier, you do pay for the device you are getting, even if the carrier claims that it is “free”. So, if you are paying for a service and for the device, why shouldn´t you be able to keep a fully-functional device once your contract is over?

Bakari Chavanu

Most definitely, Jorge.

akbar syed

Hi,
After introducing the mobile,- the company gets benefit.
They introduce the locking/unlocking thing- the company gets benefit as well as loss.
then they introduce bypassing the mobile- the company gets loss.
then they introduce law- the company gets stable.
then the customer says thats enough- the company gets locked.

Why introduce breaking the law thing and imposing the law again.

Bakari Chavanu

Good point, Akbar.

Debra Beshears

I signed the petition and shared it on Facebook and Twitter!

Bakari Chavanu

Thanks for doing so, Debra.

Elizabeth

I don’t have Facebook, because they can now issue copyright over this petition as well as your entire sequence of DNA. I am certainly going to sign the petition though.

OrlandoNative

Actually, I think they *patent* DNA sequences, not copyright them, if I remember correctly.

As to who owns the copyright on content on Facebook, I’d have to go back and read the user agreement. In most similar situations, the person posting retains copyright *unless* a “comments submitted become the property of…” clause is in the usage or submission agreement.

Riya

Lawyers and law makers are getting crazy in many parts of the world… Wonder what will come next?? O.O

Nevzat Akkaya

What a ridiculous judgement it is! The device belongs to us, we should be able to do whatever we intend to do.

Bakari Chavanu

Yep, seems everyone agrees with you Nevzat. Thanks for the feedback.

Paul

I would agree if you didn’t have a contract, but in most instances, (except for pay as you go, for one example, purchasing an unlocked phone for another), you signed a contract knowingly, so if you bought a subsidized phone under contract, just as with a house that has a mortgage, you don’t really own it outright until the last payment specified by that contract is made. After that contract is finished, you do own the phone outright and as the law specifies, you can then unlock it legally.

Nevzat Akkaya

It makes sense.

OrlandoNative

Unless the contract specifically states the phone is “collateral”; I don’t think this would be the case.

If you buy something on your credit card, the amount you owe the credit card company is “unsecured debt”. A mortgage, for example, has the house as collateral should you not pay it off.

Even in the case of loans secured by real property of some type, you aren’t limited, unless the original loan documents say so, against doing anything with it EXCEPT selling it or something that would make it decrease in value to LESS than the loan balance.

Since the value of an unlocked phone (shown in both purchase price from the original manufacturer and by prices in market places like eBay and Amazon) is higher than that of a locked one, it’s obvious that unlocking it doesn’t lower it’s value. Just the opposite, in fact.

Vicky

yes that is true. No more unlocking after 26-jan-2013. Its bad to force people to use only one company SIM and a single Network. It must be choice of users. If this law will be enforced then i can surely tell you that iphone market will be down…..

Richard Borkovec

I unlocked my phone back (Tmobile) back in November to work on StraightTalk. The phone was prepaid, and should have been unlocked to begin with. This law is ridiculous.

Jill Jacoby

If someone gets a phone for free then breaks their contract with the carrier who gave them the free or greatly reduced phone they should have some recourse to recoup that money. I think if this law is overturned then you will see the carriers charging full price, or at least not free, for phones. With everything else there will be a way around it but in theory it is ok unless you are trying to get away with something in the first place or if you use the same phone with a different sim overseas, and I am sure they will work with you in that case.

OrlandoNative

Jill, go back and read your contract on any subsidized phone you may have obtained.

If you break the service contract *before* it’s scheduled end, you pay an “early termination charge”. That’s how the carriers recoup their subsidies if you leave early.

There’s no logical justification to penalize the consumer TWICE.

Jill Jacoby

Thank you for the information! I have changed my mind on the subject and should have educated myself better before forming my opinion.

OrlandoNative

Jill, one other point. The custom of “provider subsidized” phones has been utilized since long before “smartphones” were developed, indeed, from almost the beginnings of cellular services. While some smartphones of today are very expensive, that was also true (compared to the times) with many of the earlier phones, like the Motorola V3 razr, and others. At that time, the providers used to complain about unlocking as well, but the FCC sided with consumers; since devices were SOLD, not RENTED. Since the FCC; by original mandate, governs “wireless” and wireless devices, THEY should be the determiners of whether unlocking is ok or not. And they already did – over a decade ago.

FĂ©lix S. De JesĂşs

That is a Injustice and the only interest that Government is using as a priority are the Avars carrier Owners.

Carlos

To be fair though, it only outlaws unlocking phones bought henceforth on your own. More specifically, phones you got subsidized through a contract. You can still have your carriers unlock ‘em for you should you need to do so for valid reasons (work in an area where they have dodgy coverage, taking a trip overseas and wanting to use a local sim, etc.) and, should they fail to assist you within a reasonable time frame before you need it, you’re well within your rights to unlock it yourself. Also, any phones you bought prior to this law aren’t covered by the restrictions, so unlock to your hearts’ content.

Bakari Chavanu

Great explantation, Carlos, but I just don’t see the point of the law. I mean seriously, what percentage of cell phone users are unlocking their phones anyway? It just seems like another rule to benefit the carriers.

Paul

So if I asked you to pay a portion of the cost of my phone, and we agreed on a plan to pay you back but I decided later on that I didn’t want to continue paying you, you would be OK with that? I think not, but please prove me wrong. Tell me that it would be wrong on your part to want your money returned.

OrlandoNative

Isn’t that *exactly* the situation the “early termination charges” clause is designed to address?

Thomas Milham

So much for a free country…
I hope this won’t come down-under anytime soon!

Bakari Chavanu

Personally I don’t see how they can enforce it.

Elizabeth

Not just this stupid cell phone law, but DMCA itself should be stricken down as a violation of the First Amendment. What part of “Congress shall make NO LAW restricting freedom of speech or expression” do these corrupt lawmakers not understand? I don’t own a smartphone so I can’t comment on anything about unlocking. But with regards to this out-of-control copyright obsession: “infringement” is different from plagiarism. If I have a DVD of Family Guy that I own (by whatever means) and I want to copy a clip from it and share with my friends or anonymous strangers on YouTube, then that ought to be my right to do so, because that is my freedom to express my opinion about that particular clip of Family Guy. Or maybe a clip that I don’t like, since it’s a controversial show and you either love it or hate it or have mixed feelings about certain sketches vs. others. Ex: plenty of people love the “Bird Is The Word” clip, but there are probably a lot of people who take issue with Peter Griffin’s misogynistic comments about his wife and daughter, or want to use a clip of Stewie shooting at Lois to talk about the media and gun violence in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting. I believe the latter falls under “fair use,” but even that is a murky and ambiguous definition in and of itself. And who’s to say that Joe Sixpack sharing the “Bird Is The Word” clip won’t get him additional punches from whoever manages copyright for The Trashmen?

You shouldn’t have to get special permission from Seth MacFarlane or the studio boss of 20th Century Fox or Rupert Murdoch himself just to share a clip of an already enormously popular TV show, especially since 1) there’s no way anyone could pass themselves off as the person who created Family Guy and 2) they wouldn’t stand to make any money off it whatsoever. Neither would Fox or MacFarlane, but it’s not like some teenager with a YouTube account is a major media competitor who’s going to put anyone in the poor house. Everyone has their favorite clips of movies/TV, song lyrics, video game sequences, and the like. Why should we as private citizens be prohibited from expressing or sharing our likes or dislikes over the Internet?

DMCA should be stricken down entirely, period, because a law restricting citizens’ distribution of media is a blatant violation of their right to free expression under U.S. law. Obama is a spineless hypocrite for blaming everything on the “one percent” and yet pandering directly to the whims of his wealthy constituents in Big Media, Big Tech and Big Hollywood. The mere fact that Mark Zuckerberg was not slapped with a copyright infringement case for Facebook claiming ownership of private citizens’ personal photographs should be immediate cause for another Occupy stampede, but this time of movie stars’ driveways, Silicon Valley parking lots and the thug-in-chief’s cozy dwelling at 1600 Pennsylvania. Enough already. Give the people their due and strike down this unacceptable violation of WE THE PEOPLE’s First Amendment rights. So much for the “land of the free” — RIP Aaron Swartz and f7u12 MAFIAA!

OrlandoNative

Copyright law allows the copying of “reasonable” amounts of a work for the purpose of satire, review, or comment. The obvious caveat is what amount is “reasonable”. A few scenes, a chapter, a paragraph, a sentence – probably depends on the context.

Copying the *entire* work, or, for example, showing a movie and charging admission (commercial purposes) is a different thing, and prohibited without specific approval of the copyright owner.

Dane Morgan

Unlocking a phone is a contract law violation and people who unlock their phones under contract, for the purpose of circumventing the completion of the contract should be ready to face the penalties provided for in the contract.

To make this a criminal matter, though, reflects just how far our government has sold our nation down the corporate river.

Bakari Chavanu

Dane, excellent point. It’s one thing to sign a contract and agree to certain conditions and rules, but is quite another thing when the government steps in to enforce those rules, especially when there is an exchange of money involved. Thanks for your input.

Charles Orlando

Well, you and Dane have hit on it… The whole idea behind a ‘free economy’ lies in the understanding what whatever else the government can’t touch (like religion, which is also under attack) the primary source of DETERMINATION rests in the economy. A government that controls the economy, at whatever percentage or portion, is only that amount free – regardless of the terminology used in any founding documents. A country’s constitution has to be flexible to allow for the changing times. The founding fathers knew enough to say – in essence with their life’s work and for some, with their lives – that they could not foresee every eventuality, so they left it to us.

So here’s the problem. When we stop paying attention to our responsibilities as citizens, you get garbage like this and an embarrassing host of other laws passed since we handed over the seminal moments of personal formation to the government (I mean public schools). I agree with just about everything said in this forum, but I have to say that if you’re puzzled by those seemingly, otherwise intelligent politicians making ‘mistakes’ like this, you’re looking in the wrong direction. Actually, businesses and governments work very much the same. Like us, they want freedom, power (maybe just self empowerment – for the individual) and security. But like us, they can only have as much as their willing to negotiate for (short of revolution or other, extreme game changers). So, what we have here is a textbook example of corporations getting what we allow them to have. No, you won’t be able to connect the dots conspiratorially. Its a natural reaction, not directed – but I can see how some people think there’s a unified mind behind it all. Sorry, its just the nature of the beast.

Ben Franklin is sited as saying this (and this is the one I believe is true) to a Philadelphian hopeful, on his way home after helping finalize the Constitution: in response to his/her question “Well, what kind of government have you given us?”, he said, “What we have given you is a Republic. The question is, will you be able to hold on to it?” This law is the symptom, not the disease. I’ll sign, but this is just another piece chipped away from a real cause worth fighting for. I was going to begin with a quote I read on a forum at Engadget – “If you can’t take it apart, you don’t own it.” Can we United States citizens honestly say that we have any influence at all in this “government… by the people…”?

Bakari Chavanu

Awesome analysis, Charles. We need to turn this into a bona fide article or blog post. I particularly like the part when you say, “if you can’t take it apart, you don’t own it.” That’s very insightful particularly in the digital age. It’s similar to what another author says, “learn to program, or be programmed.”

Charles Orlando

yeah… wish I could take the cred for it. Its getting spooky out there. I remember being asked to sign a petition to prevent car manufacturers from making their cars, in effect, repair proprietary. Like they had plans to own the process for repair, or put disabling functions in that would stop others from repairing the cars they make.

I like to joke around about the next revolution: smokers vs. non; gas cars vs electric; mac users vs every one else (that one’s not too far fetched)… but this is going to get serious. We’re actually starting to leverage our concerns and ideals (not substantive) about our, often misdirected, sense of responsibility against the freedoms that allow us to choose to be responsible. Example: a politician runs on an eco-responsibility platform. He/she gets elected and tells us that he’s going to make the oceans safer and protect wild tuna populations. He makes a law that prohibits fishing in certain areas under penalty of fines that large, indiscriminate, net using corporations can easily pay and small, rod and reel, local companies and individuals can not. We’re told that x amount of species were ‘saved or created’ (tongue DEEP in cheek) and the little guy who complains is portrayed as radical or antiquated on TV. Power shifts, more people go to work for corps and our political/ civic peripheral vision gets narrower. Not good.

Yes, my example is over simplified. On purpose. The point is, and always was, people in power will wear whatever hat we let them: ball cap, helmet or crown. We had to fight to get to where we are – we have to be vigilant (read any of the founding fathers on vigilance) or we can loose what we have – yes, we can get it back but, the farther from the Republic we stray, the bloodier the road back.

note to government info-miners: tag as radical.

OrlandoNative

LOL. Anyone with a hammer, a brick, or even a hard stretch of ground can take a smartphone APART. The difficult thing is putting it back together again afterwards. :D Since I work with various devices native to the “digital age”; I have the tools necessary to not need the more “brute force” methods….

Charles Orlando

Bakari, great post. Sorry so long. This is an apt example of an ongoing problem, but it applies to our interests, here at MUO.

Great job!

Bakari Chavanu

You’re welcome, Charles. Always great to have your feedback.

Wilf Staton

Dead right Dane. And once out of contract what contract are you breaking if you unlock your phone.

Bakari Chavanu

Touché, Wilf.

OrlandoNative

It may or may not be – depending on the wording of the contract. If the carrier will offer a service contract to a potential customer bringing their own phone -locked or unlocked, doesn’t matter – then what’s the point?

Bakari Chavanu

Seems to me, that the contract needs to remain between the customer and the carrier, not the carrier and the government — particularly when it comes to gadgets like cell phones.

Charles Orlando

Man, you baited me. That’s a perfect observation! Don’t we have a government to interpret and safeguard the LAW?, so if you and I are in breech of contract, they can enforce it which actually protects us and prevents people from signing contracts that take advantage or enact some unjust end. Otherwise, why exactly would the government need to get involved at all? They don’t make money off of cell phones, except for taxes. There’s no interest in it for them – except, maybe… ummmmm C0ntr0L3?

Bakari Chavanu

Exactly.

OrlandoNative

Which is exactly why contract law is a civil matter. You don’t see people go to jail for “breach of contract”, unless there’s fraud or something similar mixed in. No, the typical remedy for that is to either mandate the contract be followed as written, or else award damages to the aggrieved party.

Wilf Staton

If people buy a phone outright then they would be silly to buy one, pay the full cost and then be tied to a contract.

If they buy one as part of the contract (usually get the phone free or at a reduced price) I can understand the law if it is applied during the period of contract. After all the network provider has to get his return on investment (i.e. providing a phone free or at a low price.)

What I do not understand is that the bill is also applying this unlock law to phones out of contract. What this law is trying to do is favor the networks and forcing people after contract ends to signup again or take a contract with another vendor and get a new phone under contract.

This certainly is not a bill to protect the consumer.

In Australia a phone is unlocked after the contract period although some network operators charge a fee to do this.

Bakari Chavanu

I’m still not sure how this law will be enforced, and I will probably never need to unlock my phone, but in the digital age I am concerned about what precedent a ruling like this means as more and more of our lives are given over to digital gadgets, computers, and software. Cell phones are becoming such an intricate part of our lives, that you have to wonder what it means if we don’t have control over how we use them.

neil

What have the handset manufactures said about this or are they rubbing there hands with glee at the thought that they can now ring fence you to a mobile phone on certain networks because people want the latest phone and why is it a dmca act any way it should be the discreation of the providers if you are that concenred dont get one until these stupud laws are changed

Bakari Chavanu

It’s interesting. There doesn’t seem to be much discussion about it. But honestly I haven’t had time to look further into it. Unless the rule is actually enforced, I doubt there will be much media coverage about it.

Frances Kohl

Yet another law that supports big business and not the people. Thanks for this info, I?ll be signing and sending this to everyone I know.

Bakari Chavanu

Thanks for your feedback, Frances.

salvador hernandez

Stupid law, waste of time and money.

Diane Cebula

this law was promoted by the cell companies to restrict consumer choice we ALL need to sign this petition
free choice is free will

Bakari Chavanu

Seems that way to me, Diane. I might try to follow-up on this story to see where it goes. I really don’t see how it’s going to get enforced.

carrythis

i have a question for those of you trying to defend these two faced backstabbing sapprophites known as carriers. if you and i where to enter into a contract where i was giving you a top of the line device for next to nothing then surely i( being the shining pinnacle of customer service that i am as a carrier) would be sure make it a point to include the full asking price of the device be paid as a penalty in the event of early contract termination. that way you the consumer would be made well aware that if you got tired of the mysterious extra charges that appear on your bill for some odd reason compelled you to seek service elsewhere. then the device that cost me a 5th of what it will cost you would have to be returned or paid for would that not be the much more logical approach as far as morality is concerned? compared to ” if you will just sign this” …….”perfect” ” you have the right to be screwed anything you do to your phone can and will be used as a scare tactic dare i say act of ter$#@som to keep your money coming to me because im the spoiled rotten tantrum throwing piece of crap that i appear to be approach?

Sandra Anding

The only company that I know locks a phone is CSpire. I say, tell everyone you know about this. CSpire will eventually loose money just like Cellular South did and sold out to CSpire. I have had this problem with them just yesterday. I had service with them of 13 years. I moved service to AT&T which does not lock their phones. However, I am now stuck with 2 Samsung Galaxy phones. I am not under contract with CSpire and I paid for my phone back in 2011. I am going to call customer service and see just how far I get with them. Otherwise, AT&T has offered to buy them at a reasonable price. RUN CSpire OUT OF BUSINESS!!!!!