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.

User Comments: 8

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Recipe7 Recipe7 said:

I am one of the 100k who signed this.

The law states that wireless companies are no longer required to unlock phones, even AFTER a contract has been successfully completed!

Bad bad bad.

Tygerstrike said:

I hate to say this but I dont see this Law changing anytime soon. Even with 100k signatures. The Lobbyests have more money and pull then 100k ppl signing a piece of paper. Its the cellphone carriers game. If you want to use their services and infrastructure you have to play by their rules. Unfortunatly they have lobbyed for this and in the end they have the power. Now I know ppl are going to post how unfair it is and how its their device and they should be able to do with it as they wish. I agree, you SHOULD!! But with all the fraud that the cellphone carriers have to deal with, I can see WHY they implimented this Law. Its all about the money. There is a lot of fraud and when someone commits fraud to get a device, they normally have to unlock it to use it on another carrier. Well carrier A looses out on all the money from both the phone and service and the early disconnect fees. So where its mainly a raging inconvenece for the consumer, this is just another way the carriers can protect themselves. Im 100% sure this Law wont go away until the carriers have a way to make sure that they can recoup any money lost.

Guest said:

Gee! If petitions really worked. Unfortunately, Obama is one of them. Yes, like congress, believing that entrenched companies should be able to limit consumer choice, and shelter huge stockpiles of profit off shore. Good luck! Michael

Win7Dev said:

It should be allowed after the contract is over. It's then fully paid for and your property.

tsnedeker tsnedeker said:

Go here and let Mr Billington know what you think of his decision.

Littleczr Littleczr said:

I am one of the 100k who signed this.

The law states that wireless companies are no longer required to unlock phones, even AFTER a contract has been successfully completed!

Bad bad bad.

My understanding they are not required to unlock it after the contract but we can still legally do it or pay some one to do it.

treetops treetops said:

Signed, to be fair you can just sell your old phone on ebay but this law makes it unreasonably hard for your average person who does not use ebay to get any value from their phone after their contract expires and they change carriers. greedy maggots

adamsmith0123 said:

If apple will allow its customers to jailbreak and unlock their iDevices, I think it will increase its marketing.

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