Remember that iPhone you purchased for hundreds of dollars? It’s your legal property to do with as you wish, right? Wrong. Thanks to a new ruling by The Librarian of Congress, unlocking your smartphone will become illegal in the U.S. starting tomorrow, January 26, 2013.
The clock to unlock a new mobile phone is running out.
In October 2012, the Librarian of Congress, who determines exemptions to a strict anti-hacking law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), decided that unlocking mobile phones would no longer be allowed. But the librarian provided a 90-day window during which people could still buy a phone and unlock it. That window closes on January 26.
The ruling stems from a set of restrictions determined in October of last year, which states that performing certain types of involving a mobile violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – the same act that once held jailbreaking to be illegal (which thankfully didn’t stick). A 90-day window was put into effect, during which consumers could still legally purchase and unlock a phone.
Carriers often lock the phones that they sell in order to prevent consumers from using them on their competitor’s networks – although many devices purchased outside of a contract are already unlocked. Customers who have fulfilled their contracts can request that the carrier unlock their device – but unfortunately, all of the power lies with the carrier.
While I’m sure AT&T and Verizon executives are jumping for joy over the situation, I cannot help but view it as yet another failure of the U.S. legal system – and one which harms consumers and violates property rights when all is said and done.
Welcome to the United States of America – the Land of the “Free” (unless the alternative is more convenient).