The EFF Weighs in on the Legality of Unlocking and Jailbreaking in the U.S.

The EFF Weighs in on the Legality of Unlocking and Jailbreaking in the U.S.

As of January 26, 2013 it became illegal for you to unlock your smartphone without permission from your carrier. Now, a lot of us aren’t exactly sure where this leaves us. How about jailbreaking and rooting your phone, is that illegal too?

Unlocked iPhone 4

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, via 9to5Mac:

First, the good news. The legal shield for jailbreaking and rooting your phone remains up – it’ll protect us at least through 2015. The shield for unlocking your phone is down, but carriers probably aren’t going to start suing customers en masse, RIAA-style. And the Copyright Office’s decision, contrary to what some sensational headlines have said, doesn’t necessarily make unlocking illegal.

OK, so if you want to jailbreak, you’re good for a couple more years anyway.

Carrier unlocking… It’s a little less clear, but we do know that phones bought before the deadline are good to go for unlocking.

OK, how about new phones? Basically it sounds like all the risk will be on businesses that do the unlocking for customers:

More likely, wireless carriers, or even federal prosecutors, will be emboldened to sue not individuals, but rather businesses that unlock and resell phones. If a court rules in favor of the carriers, penalties can be stiff – up to $2,500 per unlocked phone in a civil suit, and $500,000 or five years in prison in a criminal case where the unlocking is done for “commercial advantage.” And this could happen even for phones that are no longer under contract. So we’re really not free to do as we want with devices that we own.

An entire cottage industry has built up around unlocking cellphones by actually getting the carriers themselves to unlock your phone.

Its reported in the 9to5Mac article that one company reports a way they’ve devised to remotely add phones to the Apple/Carrier databases, which unlocks phones when activated, so nothing on the phone needs to be touched. The legality of this is unknown.

So readers, are you going to continue to unlock and/or jailbreak your devices? Do you think the carriers will come directly after you if you do? Let us know in the comments section below.

  1. MRonin ⚜ says:

    I personally find the whole idea that unlocking one’s cell phone being a crime to be utterly and totally ridiculous. It’s beyond ridiculous, beyond absurd, it’s down right moronic. So totally in line with what I expect from most parts of the government when it comes to technology.

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