Obama Administration Endorses Legalization of Cell Phone Unlocking

Obama Administration Endorses Legalization of Cell Phone Unlocking

United States President Barack Obama’s administration released a statement Monday supporting the ability of users to legally unlock their cell phones and other devices to use with the carrier of their choice.

Unlocked iPhone 4


The statement was made in response to a citizen petition filed with the White House, entitled “Make Unlocking Cell Phones Legal.” That petition was created in response to a Library of Congress ruling made in late 2012 that determined cell phone unlocking would be removed as a legal exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

R. David Edelman, the director of International Cyber Policy, said the White House agrees with the more than 100,000 people who signed the online petition.

“Consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties,” he said. “In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smartphones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network.”

The statement is a win for those who believe that consumers should be able to legally unlock their devices once their service contracts have been fulfilled. While there is nothing on the table legislatively to protect such rights, the Obama administration says it will support a range of approaches to the problem, which could include legislation, or having the Federal Communications Commission step in.

January 26, 2013 saw the unauthorized unlocking of all newly purchased phones become illegal. That prompted the creation of the online petition by Sina Khanifar, a frequent international traveller who says he finds cell phone locking to be both a nuisance and a financial burden.