Petition to legalize unlocking reaches 100K signatures, warrants White House response

By on February 21, 2013, 11:42 AM

With over 100,000 signatures (and counting), an open petition asking the White House to legalize unlocking cell phones could elicit an official response from the Obama administration. Currently, 100,000 signatures within the first month of a petition's life is the minimum activity required before White House officials respond to a "We the People" submission.

"The Librarian of Congress decided in October 2012 that unlocking of cell phones would be removed from the exceptions to the DMCA." the petition begins. "As of January 26, consumers will no longer be able unlock their phones for use on a different network without carrier permission, even after their contract has expired."

The Library of Congress recently failed to renew a 2012 decision which temporarily legalized the unlocking cellular devices. It's worth noting that jailbreaking a smartphone was deemed legal in 2010 and still remains so, although performing the same ritual on tablets or game consoles will put you squarely in violation of the DMCA.

So, how'd the Library of Congress end up with the responsibility of determining the legal viability of unlocking cell phones in the first place? The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a bill drafted in 1996 and updated in 2000, prohibits users from circumventing any mechanism intended to restrict access to a device, media or software -- including cell phones. This is where the Library of Congress comes in -- the DMCA bestows our nation's grandest library with the authority to grant exemptions to this provision.

The administration recently upped the number of signatures required from 25,000 to 100,000 -- a change possibly prompted by a widely-signed petition demanding the construction of a Death Star. The White House issued a refreshingly humorous response titled, "This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For", citing a projected cost of $850,000,000,000,000,000 and a fundamental design flaw which allows the fearsome intergalactic planetary destroyer to be bested by a single, one-man ship.

The pro-unlocking petition, on the other hand, is a little more down to Earth. Its author requests that the White House, "ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal."

If you would like to add your own signature, you may do so here.

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