As of Jan. 26, it is now illegal to unlock cellphones.
According to ABC News, the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress are no longer allowing phone unlocking as an exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The full docket is available to view here.
Usually when a cellphone is bought from a company like AT&T or Verizon, it is “locked” to the carrier where it was purchased. This means the phone can only be used with that specific provider. Unlocking allows cellphones to be used on any network regardless of where the phone was originally attached. Cellphone companies’ compensation for this deal has been a discounted price. An example would be spending about $200 dollars for a “locked” iPhone and cellular/data plan combo instead of $650 for an “unlocked” iPhone by itself.
Critics of this ruling do not see the relation between unlocking phone and copyrights.
Rebecca Jeschke, digital rights analyst for Electronic Frontier Foundation, argued against this new law to ABC News: “It wasn’t a good ruling. You should be able to unlock your phone. This law was meant to combat copyright infringement, not to prevent people to do what they want to do with the device they bought.”
The new law states that it against the law to unlock a phone unless permission is given from the carrier. If a phone is unlocked without permission, the civil offense fine could be up to $2,500. Anyone making a profit from selling “unlocked” phones could be forced to pay up to $500,00 and possibly serve time in jail.
Read the full story at ABC.