PSA: Unlocking your phone is illegal starting today

January 26, 2013
33

In case you haven't heard, starting today it will be illegal for users to unlock their phone. Yes a device you've actually paid for. While this has absolutely nothing to do with root, jailbreak, and tweaking phones like we all love to in the Android Community, it's still a shame. Thanks to some edits and tweaks made the the DMCA back in October it's now illegal to unlock a phone without carrier consent.

For those that might be confused, let us explain. All phones come carrier locked and only are usable on the carrier you've purchased it through (unless bought unlocked) and usually people just use tweaks, software, or hacks to unlock them. As of today that's an illegal act folks. That shiny iPhone 4S you bought used on eBay or Craigslist you plan to use on T-Mobile is easily unlocked, but now that's a crime.

This is a large scenario because T-Mobile doesn't offer the iPhone. The same thing happens with just about every GSM Android smartphone. The Galaxy Nexus (not Verizon's) and all the phones on AT&T and T-Mobile work together in sorts. Being able to unlock that HTC One S and use it on AT&T with 3G HSPA+ has been something I've seen in the past.

The edits made to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act go in act today effectively making any unlocking without exclusive carrier support and consent illegal. Getting a carrier to willingly unlock your device is like pulling teeth, so this could be a problem for many. You can always use the "I'm going out of country and want to buy a pre-paid SIM" approach, but carriers are still usually reluctant to play along. Don't worry though guys. Unlocking our phones will still be extremely simple and this won't effect how easy or often it happens, but you could potentially get turned in by your carrier. We have a feeling not much will change, so we're not too concerned. There's already a few petitions going around to change this outrageous law so stay tuned for more details.

[via SlashGear]


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  • passinthru

    More reason to buy a phone direct from Google.

  • mark

    millennium…if you notice, this law refers to a religious era… legal, ? loophole ?

  • Philip A. Kaiser

    You would think that this goes against the idea of having a competetive and free market. If you want an iPhone to use on T-Mobile, why would T-mobile care where it came from, they just got a new customer. In retrospect, AT&T could sell you that iPhone, why do they care where you take it. If you pay full price without a contract, whoopty doo, then they just sold a phone. Profits aren’t huge, but they certainly haven’t lost anything. This is another attack on the free market for people selling used items. Like the video game companies trying as hard as they can to block the sales of used games. They claim a loss from each and every one sold. B.S. When you resell anything, does anyone on this planet other than these phone folks or video game guys give a crap? Does Chevy complain that too many people buy used cars vs. new? Nope. Maybe if you sell a good product, a user will use a used one and sell themselves into buying the newer greater version brand new. hmm… there’s a thought.

    • http://www.facebook.com/metalheadhail James Hail

      there is no free market here,are you blind? Corruption abounds in all levels of our Gubment……$ talks…….

      • Marvin Payne

        Thanks. I was just about to add a comment to the same effect. Phone companies shuffle a few million here and there to the right committee chairpersons (FCC, Commerce, etc) and the “law” gets written.

      • http://www.androidcommunity.com Cory Gunther

        Absolutely…

  • shirley

    I wish the tech geniuses would stop playing around and get a real job.

  • Habib

    Well, I purchased a HTC Driod DNA on Verizon. Called them after three days of use for unlocking and was told that all GSM phones are coming unlocked.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jacob.potter.507 Jacob Potter

    Good reason to buy a phone from Google, EXCEPT the dummies at Google have been sold out for 3 months!! Dear Google if Apple can produce 50 million phones in a few months, how come you can’t produce 5 million in 3 months??

    • Me89765

      Because Google doesn’t push insane production requirements like Apple, which pushes factory workers to suicide. Look up Foxconn.

  • Joseph

    How in the world is this even legal? We are not renting the device from the carrier, we own the device. I can understand if they want to regulate alterations to the phone that take advantage and cheat the carrier, but this is not the cast for most. This “law” will not stop it, if anything I think it would cause more people to unlock their phone. I for one will stand up for my own rights and do as I please as long as it doesn’t affect any other entity financially. It’s my property, I will do with it as I please.

    • ThePainfulTruth

      It’s illegal because the American public is largely asleep at the wheel and the large telecommunication conglomerates with influential lobbiests count on that. There was ample opportunity for people to voice their displeasure with this before it was allowed to take effect, but nobody gave a rat’s ass. The fact that lobbying is legal in the US is absurd. It’s sugar-coated bribery, and it should be a crime. Nothing is going to change until politicians start getting the boot, but by-and-large, we re-elect the same people who are picking our pockets and selling our liberty to the highest bidder. If you voted for an incumbent congressperson, you got exactly what you deserve.

    • Tomi Golob

      All of you are to blame… sorry I do feel for the innocent bystanders but enough is enough. Do something guys! Here in Europe we like to argue with our politicians…America should be leading in this but sadly isn’t :/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_X74VUAGGOYX4A22JEXFW6FL4SI EdC

    Remember, Cory, it’s “affect” not “effect”, as in, “….this won’t affect how easy or often this happens.”

    • Gav456

      Toclarify: Effect is a noun, affect a verb. As in “this won’t affect how people yada, yada…” or “this will not have an effect on how people yada, yada”

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/104684441318752696089/about/p/pub Lokifish Marz

    Read through the DMCA. There’s actually a profits protection clause. So even if an activity is not in violation of copyright or intellectual properties all a corporation has to do is cry “But we can’t rob these people if this is legal”. That’s where your profits protection clause come in.

  • HYATT™

    Everybody wants deregulation. Everybody bashes the left as “Socialists against the Free Market” But they sure do love regulation and big gummint involvement when it suits them and means the gummint can enforce them acting as a monopoly and ripping people off for a ton of loot.BIggest f’n hypocrits on the planet those right winger “Free Market sloganeers.

  • djgranados

    Thanks Obama for your war on free enterprise.

    • Bill

      Obama? What does he have to do with it? This was a Congressional activity – Republicans control the House of Representatives, Democrats the Senate.

    • woody

      Duh… The White House actually has come out multiple times opposing this law. It’s the Republicans who have opposed net neutrality laws that would prevent phone companies from charging you based on content and allowing the phone companies to screw us over.

      Your knee-jerk lashing out against Obama is typical of Republicans.

  • LookTJ

    Someone should try this on the basis of US antitrust law

  • http://ablogination.tn420.org/blog captainkona

    Ignore the law. If it does not protect person or property it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

  • http://twitter.com/nategatorc Nathan C
  • buento

    It is like I cant make a dump in my backyard. What a bullshi*. It is MY tablet, that means I can do anything I possibly want with it. It is no crime!

    • Lewis Jones

      Thats like saying ‘It is MY gun. I can kill whoever I want with it. It is no crime!’ If you were to use your tablet to kill somebody that’s a crime

  • Tomi Golob

    Lawmakers are sponsored by those who want such laws… Conflict of interests . Capitalism like communism is broken. Doesn’t take into account the human factor…or the factor of worst humans :)

  • cuellorojo

    Its not your phone until you void the warranty!!

    • Lewis Jones

      My warranty is void. I rooted. Will that make any difference? No

  • http://www.facebook.com/wad4ever Eric Wadsworth

    The issue of “is this a good law” is never raised. It’s all about “how much did which lobbying group pay into which politician’s campaign re-election fund?” Our laws are created by a system of legalized bribery.

  • http://www.galaxyunlocker.com/blogs/galaxyunlocker Mark Galaxy

    This law won’t make people not seek an unlocking solution. And it won’t make unlockers close their business either. That’s because there is a hard to define grey zone: you are still allowed to unlock your phone if you purchased it before January 27th, 2013. But not if you purchased it after that date. This means the law makes it half legal and half illegal. What kind of jurisdiction will correctly handle that!? As an unlocker, I can simply offer my service and it is up to the customer to follow the law. My terms of business will include such a stipulation. Additionally, I’m not even a USA business so I could go one step further and even offer to unlock all the phone models that obviously come out in 2013 and not before (i.e. the US variant of the Samsung Galaxy S4). But I won’t. I don’t want my customer to run into problems.

  • Marshfield

    I feel that this should be allowed only if you buy your phone under contract. The carrier is giving you a huge mark down in price (i.e. $699.00 to 149.00 for the Galaxy S3). However, if you buy your phone: full retail, are out of contract or through a third party means (eBay, crag’s list, or a friend). Then you should be able to unlock your phone. That being said, I feel that your average user doesn’t realize how expensive a smart phone can be full retail. Its a trade off, you get an almost 80% reduction in price and the carrier gets a promise that you’ll be with them for 2 years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ShaunDewskie Shaun Dewskie

    what about the unlocking companys. do they go out of business overnight ?

  • Lewis Jones

    This law is in-fact very very stupid and it was only enforced to rescue the profits of companies offering contracts. Lets take virgin media. They will sell contracted phones that are locked to their network so people have no choice but to use their services so they can make their profit and stop people from using other networks on said phone. It would make a bit more sense to enforce a law on root/jailbreak as that gives users access to content thats meant to be paid for, for free. The law for unlocking a phone is just to protect the network providers and not the owner of the phone.