Unlocking Your Phone From Its Network Is Now Illegal For Some Ridiculous Reason

Senior Contributor
01.30.13 3 Comments

It’s safe to say that if you’re on the Internet, you’re not a fan of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law designed to basically try and prevent certain things from happening on the Internet, which is a bit like expecting YouTube commenters to somehow evolve into something resembling homo sapiens. One of the things it is now officially preventing? Taking your contract phone to another network.

How did this come together? Well, in 2010, the Electronic Frontier Foundation announced it’d managed to win a few exemptions to the DMCA, unlocking your phone among them, from the federal government. Unfortunately, money speaks louder than common sense these days, and the government has taken that right away:

… the marketplace has evolved such that there is now a wide array of unlocked phone options available to consumers. While it is true that not every wireless device is available unlocked, and wireless carriers’ unlocking polices are not free from all restrictions, the record clearly demonstrates that there is a wide range of alternatives from which consumers may choose in order to obtain an unlocked wireless phone. Thus, the Register determined that with respect to newly purchased phones, proponents had not satisfied their burden of showing adverse effects related to a technological protection measure.

The full decision can be found on this PDF, starting on page 16, and it does make clear that if conditions in the market shift, or that judges develop a more coherent stance on the issue, you’ll be back to legally unlocking your phone.

The good news is that rooting your phone or jailbreaking got the thumbs up. But it’s odd and contradictory that consumers can do whatever they want with their phones except decide what network they go on. If somebody buys a phone from one company, and pays their contract… why shouldn’t they be allowed to hop networks?

Hopefully, this will be revisited shortly. Until then… just kind of pretend that your phone is getting some weird interference or something.

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