Starting today, the U.S. Copyright Office and Library of Congress are no longer allowing phone unlocking as an exemption under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

You can read the full docket here but, in short, it is illegal to unlock a phone from a carrier unless you have that carrier’s permission to do so. If you’re wondering what this has to do with copyright, it turns out not much.

“It wasn’t a good ruling,” Rebecca Jeschke, a digital rights analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), told ABC News. “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.”

Of course, the carriers prefer the new rule because it ties your phone to their network.



  1. dusanmal says:

    Elections have consequences. Progressives are Progressives and not libertarians. CONTROL and dictate, public-private-partnership are the keywords. Obama to telco’s – no unlocking, telco’s to Obama – all the data snooping. And that’s just for starters.

    • msbpodcast says:

      Progressives are Progressives

      The word progressive does not mean what you think it does.

      The work is regressive, which no politician of any stripe will admit to being, (despite how obviously their actions put their words to the torch.)

    • msbpodcast says:

      Laws have unintended consequences.

      Elections just end up wrapping some 1%ers’ dicks in SaranWrap™®© before sticking ’em into your wallet.

    • Captain Obvious says:

      Democrats are pond scum (hello Senator Bob Menendez) but the DMCA comes from your friendly neighborhood Republican Congress’. The 105th put it in, and this current mess falls right into the lap of the Congressional Energy and Commerce Committee.

      • BigBoyBC says:

        Passed the House on August 4, 1998 (voice vote)
        Passed the Senate on September 17, 1998 (unanimous consent)

    • Semantics says:

      Your a moron. This is part of the DMCA which was passed by a Republican controlled congress in 1996.

      • GregAllen says:

        Exactly.

        >> Introduced in the House of Representatives as H.R. 2281 by Rep. Howard Coble (R-NC) on July 29, 1997

        note the “R” behind Howard Coble’s name.

      • BigBoyBC says:

        Signed into law by President Clinton on October 28, 1998, Oh yeah, he’s a Democrat…

        btw, it’s “You’re”, not “Your”.

  2. Egon Ruuda says:

    Luckily in many countries it is still even illegal to even sell a locked phone in the manner described.

  3. msbpodcast says:

    “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.”

    If you bought the phone and have the paperwork to prove it then the gummint can go fuck itself, (or the presiding judge can bend over and volunteer to get get a coltan enema.)

    This is a total waste of time. In politics this is called a “walking red flag” (as in Vermont even had a law that required one person to walk in front of the car holding a red flag)

    Some jerk wants to be seen by a funder as doing something when the only thing the idiot can do is pass another stupid, and unenforceable, law.

    If Aaron Swartz hadn’t killed himself the whole thing would have been laughed out of court.

    And do you seriously think that the police have the resources in training, equipment, time and money to waste catching you with an unlocked cell phone?

    Ask ’em if they dont have a fourteen year-old gun crazed wezel to catch, instead of hassling you…

  4. Fletch says:

    What’s next? Outlaw playing music at a higher pitch? Wearing different color socks? Changing the radio that came on your car for a better one?
    WTF are we doing that we just accept sh*t like that passively?|
    It is my phone, I bought it with my money and it belongs to me! How dare you tell me what to do with it?
    Un-be-lie-va-ble!!!!!!!!!

  5. msbpodcast says:

    In fact, if you want to drive the police nuts, go and surrender.

    When they ask you for what, you can send ’em on a wild goose chase looking for whatever statute they have.

    The law is such an over lawyered morass of contradictory word that you can rest assured that you’re breaking some law or some ordinance at any given point in time.

    One of my first expert system/AI experiments in the early ’90s concerned the payment of contractors by a department of the Canadian federal government.

    After building the knowledge base from the guidelines, rules and regulations that governed the issuance of funds from that particular department, it ended up that the department never had to pay anyone.. There was always an obstacle or other that someone could invoke to not issue a cheque.

  6. deowll says:

    If I recall correctly laws like this are supposed to be less typical of Communist countries that Fascist countries or maybe I should have just said where the legislature and executive branch are willing to sell out the people they are supposedly representing.

  7. Fabby says:

    Easy solution: don’t buy cell phones, buy GSM phones! They’re all unlocked!

  8. hmeyers says:

    Report your phone stolen to the carrier. Call them back the next day and say you found it.

    You didn’t do it! Whoever stole your phone did.

    Say your think the neighbors kid did it because he is a hacker and you think he uses Linux.

    Say that you think the TSA did it one time you got pulled aside at the airport.

  9. Pointexter says:

    A step Backwards it would seem.

  10. CrankyGeeksFan says:

    This ruling comes out just as the largest carriers are all migrating their different cell phone standards to the LTE standard. Before, phones couldn’t be moves from GSM/HSPA; EV-DO; and Wi-Max (AT&T and T-Mobile; Verizon; and Sprint, respectively).

    Maybe, phones can still be unlocked after two years or when the contract is up.

  11. ReadyKilowatt says:

    Much better article explaining what’s really going on:
    http://androidcentral.com/what-you-need-know-abut-cell-phone-unlocking

    If you’re really worried about having a locked phone, buy unlocked phones. there’s tons of them available. You’ll pay more upfront, but some carriers will discount your service if you have a phone already. I’ve had locked and unlocked phones over the past few years and there’s no difference if you don’t switch carriers all the time.

    As for the “I bought it, so I own it” argument, no, you didn’t buy the software, you bought a (non-transferable) license to use the software (a much larger travesty that sadly will never be resolved).

    • GregAllen says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

      Aren’t locked phones basically an instalment plan?

      I use Tracfone and I get the phone for almost free up-front. I assume the cost of the phone is built into the service price. I agree to that deal when I buy the phone.

      I’ve lived in other countries where they didn’t have locked phones. (to my knowledge, anyway) In those countries you pay the real price of the phone. It’s a lot more than $12.99

      • McCullough says:

        I used Tracfone for several years and they were fine, for someone who just wants basic no frills cell phone service.

        I switched to Ting which I have found to be about as cheap, but includes Smartphone service, no contract, pay for what you use, own the phone.

        For me it runs about 20 bucks a month using the latest Samsung Galaxy SIII. Yes, you have to buy the phone, or you can bring it with you, but you are not locked into any contract.

        https://ting.com/

  12. Peppeddu says:

    For me a locked phone was never an option, I always use local carriers when I travel abroad.

    In Europe you can get a prepaid SIM card for about 5 euro, then you charge it with whatever amount you want and off you go, your phone with all your stuff, with a cheap local phone number.
    When you’re done simply throw away the SIM or keep it as a souvenir.

    And it makes it SO much easier to switch carriers.

    • MikeN says:

      So you get the locked phone, and then unlock it before going to Europe. This isn’t complicated.

  13. More anti-freedom policy, thanks for the anti-Net Neutrality, anti-consumer, pro-Big Business Republican Party.

    • Dallas says:

      Agreed. The Teapublican sheeple (need to find a one word acronym…sheepublican? sheteepeople? ..dunno)

      Anyway, them, seem to dismiss the root of legislation from their masters that ultimately work against their better interest. It’s kinda like a masochistic relationship but masochists know the outcome. These pea brains just seem lost on cause and effect.

    • notatall says:

      Yeah, and damn that republican bill clinton for singing it into law…! Oh…wait…

    • notatall says:

      And before we get the usual prattle about how he had no choice, please tell me who in this picture is putting a gun to his smiling head, forcing him to sign the DMCA into law?

      http://cdn.dipity.com/uploads/events/322bd380dcf34b45a137f03b2bf84f2a_1M.png

      • Jonesy says:

        Don’t be too hard on Dallas, he was the kid on the short bus, the window-licker you just had to feel sorry for.

      • Some random picture you found on the Internet and we’re suppose to believe you know what he is signing, lol.

        • notatall says:

          Yeah, your right…that must have been a forged signature on the bill that was signed into law. There is no way he signed the DMCA in front of the press (That’s sarcasm, son. Thought I would point that out since you’re obviously too dim to get it on your own.).

    • GregAllen says:

      Animal,

      You have the freedom to pay the full price for a phone instead of 1¢ and a contract.

      Man, I get so tired of this”everything is fascism” nonsense.

    • MikeN says:

      #1 supporter of Net Neutrality is Google which stands to make lots of money from it.

  14. Tom Peign says:

    The only vote that counts is the one you make with your wallet.

  15. Joe says:

    United States of Corporate Fascism, where SWAT teams break down doors at private homes and arrest people at gunpoint for downloading copyrighted material, and where bank executives who commit mortgage fraud on an enormous scale that compromised the entire monetary system are given immaterial fines and “deferred prosecution agreements”, ie faux probation.

  16. There are efforts in Congress to modify the Act. Rick Boucher, a Democratic congressman from Virginia, is leading one of these efforts by introducing the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act (DMCRA).

    Repukes will fight this one, no doubt.

    • GregAllen says:

      What are the details?

      If it costs corporations one dime, you can bet the GOP will filibuster it.

      My pet issue are these hundred-year copyrights. We might as well have no limits on copyrights, in that case.

      Copyrights were originally designed to _balance_ the rights of the author with the good of the public.

      The long-standing 28 year limit seems about right to me.

      The author gets almost three decades to earn a profit yet the item still might have some usefulness to the general public when it goes public domain.

      • hmeyers says:

        Greg, although I somewhat agree with you on the infinite copyright thing … I would ask you this …

        How are we being hurt by that? I mean specifically.

        I don’t see anyone doing anything new and exciting with King Kong, Mickey Mouse, the Three Stooges.

        So I’m not seeing how we are being held back by
        infinite copyright. Keep in my I’m no proponent of infinite copyright either.

        Sherlock Holmes, Dracula and Frankenstein aren’t protected by copyright. I don’t belief HP Lovecraft’s works are either. Charles Dickens and Shakespeare’s works aren’t. And those are rarely used in an interesting way …

        • MikeN says:

          Noone’s doing anything new with Mickey Mouse because it is protected by copyright. If it were public domain, or at least Steamboat Willie and Cinderella, then maybe we would see something.

          [Noone is not a word. It’s TWO words. No one. Only the uneducated don’t know this. –ed]

  17. Somebody says:

    “This law was meant to combat copyright infringement, not to prevent people to do what they want to do with the device they bought.”

    When her parents explained the birds and bees to this gal, they should have covered the fact that in DC, “unintended consequences” never are unintended.

    Yes, Virginia, the Devil is in the details.

  18. Chris Mac says:

    lol

  19. orchidcup says:

    Now law enforcement is faced with the task of tracking every cell phone to make sure a phone does not get unlocked illegally.

    Like they don’t already have enough law enforcement duties.

    It is not only vain, but wicked, in a legislature to frame laws in opposition to the laws of nature, and to arm them with the terrors of death. This is truly creating crimes in order to punish them.

    Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure.

    Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), US Founding Father, drafted the Declaration of Independence, 3rd US President

  20. Ed Gurney says:

    This law redefines private property rights. Cell phones are not important, but the concept of ownership is very important. It’s about time our politicians started getting jail time for some of their actions. This would be a good place to begin.

  21. Ed Gurney says:

    If I had the money to stop things like this, I would. I don’t. Instead I stopped voting.

  22. Dudeski says:

    At the risk of pointing out the offensively obvious..
    This wouldn’t be a problem if you morons stopped buying locked phones from those fuckwad carriers.
    Just get one unlocked like the rest of the world does. =/

    • Dallas says:

      What’s the point of unlocked phones when they obsolete in 2-3 years

    • C. Garison says:

      Amen. People need to pay the money to get unlocked phones then we have no reason to complain about this stupid law.

  23. MikeN says:

    The carriers have always given me unlock codes for my phones.

    Bigger problem is you are required to buy a dataplan with a smartphone.

  24. MikeN says:

    Uncle Dave has become the grammar police. According to him only an uneducated person would use ‘noone’. According to Wikipedia, use of ‘no one’ outnumbers ‘no-one and noone’ 500-1 in America, but in Britain it is only 12-1 of no one vs noone. So Americans are about 40 times less uneducated than Britain.

    • Captain Obvious says:

      Run sentence. Dangling modifier.

      Bailiff, whack his pee pee.

  25. GKY says:

    There is good news here. But NOT if you’re an American.

    http://cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/01/28/tech-wireless-code-of-conduct-draft-crtc.html

    Seems like American’s don’t like importing common sense – just oil and dope. It could be why their immigration laws are all fucked up not to mention why there are so many damned fool liberals with locked phones!

  26. Grandpa says:

    I don’t travel outside the USA. Why would I want an unlocked phone for? What would it do that mine cannot already do?

    If it’s about switching carriers, no problem. They would be very happy to give me a discount to do that.

  27. Captain Obvious says:

    The EFF weighs in. As usual, nothing is as it appears.

  28. toad says:

    It is always a government’s goal to make everyone a criminal. Sorry, this is not news to me. War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength. The first law of Political Science is that every government tends towards totalitarianism. Some are just quicker than others. Cheers to FREEDOM and absolute zero.


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