Unlocking your mobile phone will become a crime starting Saturday

By on January 25, 2013, 7:30 AM

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to unlock your smartphone, you might want to hurry up and make a decision one way or another. That’s because starting January 26 (this Saturday), the process will become illegal in the US thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The law officially went into effect in October 2012 but the Librarian of Congress provided a 90 day grace period for anyone with an unlocked device to do the deed.

It goes without saying that the restriction hasn’t earned the approval of everyone – most notably, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).The advocacy group has questioned whether or not the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has the right to determine who can and cannot unlock a phone.

Those with certain handsets like Verizon’s iPhone 5 aren’t affected as it comes unlocked out of the box. AT&T, meanwhile, will unlock a phone once it is out of contract. Alternately, users can simply purchase an unlocked phone without a carrier subsidy although expect to pay a pretty penny for the opportunity. Unlocked iPhones start at $649 but you can get something cheaper like the Nexus 4 from Google for around $300.

At the end of the day, this really isn’t expected to have a significant impact on most users. At most, it will likely become a thorn in the side of some wireless carriers like T-Mobile that have promoted bringing unlocked handsets to their network in order to save on monthly billing.




User Comments: 39

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2 people like this | PC nerd PC nerd said:

What the hell, man?

Zechz said:

Where can I get Nexus 4 for $300 ?

4 people like this | MonsterZero MonsterZero said:

This is total bullshit, wouldn't the device be considered personal property after the sale?

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

What do they think this will accomplish? I don't get it.

2 people like this | rvnwlfdroid said:

The next step is to make rooting/jail-breaking a device illegal. Rat Bastards.

gamoniac said:

What do they think this will accomplish? I don't get it.

I guess to force subscribers to buy new phones and tie them to a two-year contract (in the US anyway). Not good...

Timonius Timonius said:

This is total bullshit, wouldn't the device be considered personal property after the sale?

Sounds like the direction they are taking is that it will end up being property of the issuer, you're just given the privilege to use it like your debit card.

1 person liked this | VitalyT VitalyT said:

And this is how US ends up as the country with the highest percentage of criminals.

Thanks God I live in Europe.

3 people like this | Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Here in Chile, mobile phones are sold unlocked and it's enforced by law.

3 people like this | edvim said:

This is total bullshit, wouldn't the device be considered personal property after the sale?

Sure this is bullshit but don't ever be fooled into thinking the DMCA has anything to do with consumer rights, it was never conceived as a public service in any way and its implementation was only to serve a dying industry. The fact that even exists is just another example on how our government can be bought out and how easy it is for monied interests to control it.

MilwaukeeMike said:

I didn't even know I COULD unlock my phone. So it could work for any carrier? I honestly didn't know that was even possible. I know your phone can work with other networks (hence roaming), but I didn't think it was within my power to unlock the phone. I would have through the carrier would have to do it.

I still don't get why it's illegal, especially after they passed legislation a few years ago that lets you take your phone number with you when switch carriers.

3 people like this | Ranger1st Ranger1st said:

In Canada unlocked devices are the norm, not the exception. You Americans are getting hosed on a daily basis it seems.. is there is no word as ' over-corporated ' there should be and it applies to the US..

Tygerstrike said:

The phone would be yours AFTER your 2yr contract is up. Think of it like leasing a car. You really cant do much to change the car while you are leasing it. If you purchase it you can. This way the cellphone companies dont have to eat the retail costs of whatever phone you as the consumer chose. Those phones are expensive. And dont sit there and think that the cellphone companies are getting a device any cheaper. The profit margin on any cellphone is very slim. They get their money back from the service. Its a bit unfair for those users that like to hop around carriers, but this in general doesnt effect the general consumer in any real way.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

Here in Chile, mobile phones are sold unlocked and it's enforced by law.

As in South Africa.

spencer spencer said:

In Canada unlocked devices are the norm, not the exception. You Americans are getting hosed on a daily basis it seems.. is there is no word as ' over-corporated ' there should be and it applies to the US..

I believe over federalized, as I'm american. But since the feds make deals with corporations it basically the same

m4a4 m4a4 said:

Hmmm... if you thing about it as you haven't fully bought the phone until the contract is up (since that is technically how they do it with the contracts), then I can see why this didn't get shot down.

If you didn't pay full price for the phone at the beginning of the contract, you technically cannot complain about not "owning" it....... still a d*ck move though...

hitech0101 said:

Rules like these makes guyz like us notorious criminals.

1 person liked this | Zilliak said:

The phone would be yours AFTER your 2yr contract is up. Think of it like leasing a car. You really cant do much to change the car while you are leasing it. If you purchase it you can. This way the cellphone companies dont have to eat the retail costs of whatever phone you as the consumer chose. Those phones are expensive. And dont sit there and think that the cellphone companies are getting a device any cheaper. The profit margin on any cellphone is very slim. They get their money back from the service. Its a bit unfair for those users that like to hop around carriers, but this in general doesnt effect the general consumer in any real way.

LOL you have to be kidding me.... Think of it like this...Leasing a car that actually costs a lot of money to make versus a phone which costs around 120 to 180 to make and all you want to do is use it to your liking. IF you want to cancel your contract it still costs your 385 to 500 $ becuase they make you pay for the phone regardless so there is no reason for this act to be enabled. Its just a way for the companies to make more money off people and its shitty, america is slowly being taken over by corporations and a corrupt government and the people just let it happen because they are ignorant and selfish.

Tygerstrike said:

@Zill

Reguardless of what it costs to make the phones value is always much greater. Thats how they calculate potential capital lose. The carriers get the phones from the manufacture. It may only cost 120 to 180 to make but the phones value is what we the customer is charged. Its not a "shitty" move. Its a very smart move on their part if they want to keep in business. Im 100% sure they are tired of losing phones because of fraud. Now there is a recourse for the carriers. They have a chance now to recoup their loses and put the ppl in jail that caused the fraud. As roughly 25-30% of most new activations are either fraud or the customer just doesnt pay their bill and are cancelled. The phones are expensive and the carriers have been getting boned for years because of ppls dishonesty.

Littleczr Littleczr said:

The profit margin on any cellphone is very slim. They get their money back from the service..

This is a lie. I worked for Fry's Electronics where we would get 10% off the original price on every item. For example iphone 3 retail cost $299. Iphone 3 total cost before the consumer cost $99 dollars. You would add 10 percent to 99 dollars and that would be our final price. This was with every item on the sore but for cell phones it was the biggest discount.

The conclusion is that they make a hell of allot of money of selling phones directly or contract.

Chazz said:

Let's bash a whole group of citizens and make overly generalized statements for no ******* reason. Cause that helps. Stay classy people who just happen to live elsewhere on this little rock(in the grand scheme).

shamus087 said:

**** that. I do what I want. I buy it, It's mine not theirs. I'll hack the shit outta my phone, if I want to.

killeriii said:

@Zill

Reguardless of what it costs to make the phones value is always much greater. Thats how they calculate potential capital lose. The carriers get the phones from the manufacture. It may only cost 120 to 180 to make but the phones value is what we the customer is charged. Its not a "shitty" move. Its a very smart move on their part if they want to keep in business. Im 100% sure they are tired of losing phones because of fraud. Now there is a recourse for the carriers. They have a chance now to recoup their loses and put the ppl in jail that caused the fraud. As roughly 25-30% of most new activations are either fraud or the customer just doesnt pay their bill and are cancelled. The phones are expensive and the carriers have been getting boned for years because of ppls dishonesty.

I think you're missing the point.

When you lease a car, It does not belong to you. You have to return it when the lease is up. It was never your property.

When you get a phone subsidized through a carrier. You agree to purchase the phone 100%. If you are negligent in your payments, or try to get out of the contract early, they bill you for the full price of the phone. You keep the phone no matter what. The carrier doesn't want a used phone back.

To me this act makes no sense whatsoever. It's just a way for more companies to keep you from doing what you want with your property. Seems very corrupt.

What's next? Maybe American car manufacturers are going to force you by law to get your vehicle serviced at a their service stations.

It's a slippery slope...

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

Those with certain handsets like Verizon?s iPhone 5 aren?t affected as it comes unlocked out of the box. AT&T, meanwhile, will unlock a phone once it is out of contract. Alternately, users can simply purchase an unlocked phone without a carrier subsidy although expect to pay a pretty penny for the opportunity. Unlocked iPhones start at $649 but you can get something cheaper like the Nexus 4 from Google for around $300.

So unlocking a phone still on contract is illegal? I'm confused.

veLa veLa said:

I guess the real point is have fun trying to enforce it. How are they supposed to catch people again?

ViperSniper2 said:

Where can I get Nexus 4 for $300 ?

Actually it's now $349, but that's still a great deal for what you get. They've been out of stock though. Luckily though Google says supply constraints will be eased soon. It was because Google didn't put any limits on the number of devices people could buy. Consequently large companies were buying 100's at a time if not 1000's and of course we've had tons of ebay scapers cleaning up on buying them for $299 and selling them for as much as $600 on ebay!

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Do they even know if you unlock it?

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

@Zill

Reguardless of what it costs to make the phones value is always much greater. Thats how they calculate potential capital lose. The carriers get the phones from the manufacture. It may only cost 120 to 180 to make but the phones value is what we the customer is charged. Its not a "shitty" move. Its a very smart move on their part if they want to keep in business. Im 100% sure they are tired of losing phones because of fraud. Now there is a recourse for the carriers. They have a chance now to recoup their loses and put the ppl in jail that caused the fraud. As roughly 25-30% of most new activations are either fraud or the customer just doesnt pay their bill and are cancelled. The phones are expensive and the carriers have been getting boned for years because of ppls dishonesty.

I think you're missing the point.

When you lease a car, It does not belong to you. You have to return it when the lease is up. It was never your property.

When you get a phone subsidized through a carrier. You agree to purchase the phone 100%. If you are negligent in your payments, or try to get out of the contract early, they bill you for the full price of the phone. You keep the phone no matter what.

You are billed the subsidized price of the phone at the start of the contract. If you leave before your contract is over, it's not the money for the phone they want, its the months remaining on your contract for cell service they are after.

1 person liked this | wizardB wizardB said:

The US government the best government that corporate money can buy!!Sure am glad I live in a truly free country......Canada.You sold your freedom for the appearance of safety now your going to have to fight and maybe die if you ever want to wrestle it back from big content and their ilk!

KbloodyK KbloodyK said:

Quick, everybody unlock your phones now!

2 people like this | Carls999 Carls999 said:

Land of the free indeed.

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

Just what I thought... So they had to actually make a law to tell you to wait until your contract is over before you can unlock your phone permanently? Wow, are people really that stupid they need this clarified? Why would this EVER be legal in the first place? What benefit do you get from permanently unlocking a phone on CONTRACT before it's over? Are international customers upset about this? Well they are the minority, and if they can afford to travel overseas, they can afford to purchase an unlocked phone. Period.

Humanity is doomed. We're getting dumber not smarter.

killeriii said:

Just what I thought... So they had to actually make a law to tell you to wait until your contract is over before you can unlock your phone permanently? Wow, are people really that stupid they need this clarified? Why would this EVER be legal in the first place? What benefit do you get from permanently unlocking a phone on CONTRACT before it's over? Are international customers upset about this? Well they are the minority, and if they can afford to travel overseas, they can afford to purchase an unlocked phone. Period.

Humanity is doomed. We're getting dumber not smarter.

Ha Ha Ha...Noob!

Once I start a contract with a carrier, they don't care what phone I use, or even if I use a phone at all. All they care about is that I pay my monthly bill. Once I enter the contract, the phone is mine. I am legally obligated to pay out my contract. Again, the phone is mine from day one.

The only reason the carriers are pushing this law is to force you to continue to use your purchased phone with them only.

What's next, breaking your phone will be illegal too?

Just for clarification...The phone is NOT on contract. It's just subsidized. Your service is on contract. The phone is included on agreement to pay X amount for X amount of time for service, not for the phone. Cell service costs the same even if you bring your own phone to the table, but you're not locked in a contracted service that way.

hahahanoobs hahahanoobs said:

Just for clarification...The phone is NOT on contract. It's just subsidized. Your service is on contract.

I don't think so. You get the phone for cheap BECAUSE you agree to the (1-3 year) plan. Otherwise you pay full retail price. A contract is a contract is a contract. When you default, you pay the remaining of your contract (cancellation fees etc), and you keep the phone because they are asking for money to the end of your contract, not up until the time you defaulted.

killeriii said:

Just for clarification...The phone is NOT on contract. It's just subsidized. Your service is on contract.

I don't think so. You get the phone for cheap BECAUSE you agree to the (1-3 year) plan. Otherwise you pay full retail price. A contract is a contract is a contract. When you default, you pay the remaining of your contract (cancellation fees etc), and you keep the phone because they are asking for money to the end of your contract, not up until the time you defaulted.

My point was, once you agree to the contracted service, it shouldn't matter what happens to the phone. You're obligated to pay out your contract no matter what.

EClyde EClyde said:

Tracphone Baby !! Are you a nerd or a sucker?

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Or a thread necromancer?

Gopal Bhat Gopal Bhat said:

1) This is ridiculous

2) How will anyone even find out your device has been 'illegally' unlocked?

Unlocking a phone a crime. What a joke!

So many REAL crimes are happening in the world and this kind of crap gets attention.

1 person liked this | Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Read dates... please!! Unsuscribing thread...

learninmypc learninmypc said:

I think articles like this should be locked after a certain length of time. I too just noticed the year old date:eek:

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