As of January 26th, it became illegal for U.S. mobile phone users to unlock their new cell phones without permission form their wireless carrier. However, a petition on the Whitehouse.gov site calling for the law to be rescinded has reached its signature goal.
Sina Khanifar, co-founder of OpenSignal, is protesting the new law with a whitehouse.gov petition calling for the decision to be rescinded. In 2004, Khanifar started Cell-Unlock.com, a business centered around unlocking mobile phones.
Unlocking a cell phone was previously allowed as part of an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), but the exception ended following a ruling by the Library of Congress’s Copyright Office in October of 2012.
Khanifar says in his petition that the loss of the exemption hinders mobile phone users who wish to unlock their phones for use abroad and that it also devalues the devices.
At the time of this article, the petition had received 101,902 signatures, more than enough to receive a formal White House response. White House policy is to issue a response to petitions that garner at least 100,000 signatures. While the signatures don’t guarantee a reversal of the policy, they do ensure that the issue is officially addressed.
Users can of course, still have their devices unlocked through their carriers, and unlocked cell phones can still be purchased, although at much higher unsubsidized prices.