At this point, you've probably heard that starting tomorrow, it will become illegal to unlock your smartphone to use it on another carrier. You certainly should have heard so since the decision was made three months ago. That being said, there are still quite a few questions that folks want to have answered. Chief among them, 'How does this affect me?' Well, I'm glad you asked, dear reader.

For a bit of context, first, let's take a look at exactly what has changed. This is not new, sweeping legislation. What happens is that every three years, the Librarian of Congress issues a set of exemptions to the DMCA. This is to help account for changes in technology so the law doesn't stay woefully behind the times (though entire articles could be written about that itself).

In 2006 and in 2010 (the last round of exemptions took a while to process), the Library specifically allowed unlocking phones in order to use handsets on other providers. The 2006 ruling pointed out that the issue had little do with protecting copyright and more to do with protecting a business model (a fair point!), and the 2010 ruling merely upheld the previous exemption. However, it's not getting renewed a third time. So, how does this affect you? Well, that depends on what your needs are.

I Have A New Android Phone I Want To Unlock, Do I Care?


Honestly, probably not. Why? Well because in the U.S., there's not all that much interoperability between handsets anyway. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that we're not looking at a device like the Galaxy S III that has a near-identical version on each carrier. After all, why go to the trouble of buying a GS3 on AT&T for a subsidized price, break contract, and then take it to T-Mobile when you can just get it straight from big Magenta itself? (There are other reasons you might want to do this, but I'll get to those in a bit.)

No, let's take a look at something like the HTC One X for AT&T or the EVO LTE on Sprint. Both popular handsets, right? Well, for starters, neither of those handsets could work on each other's network. AT&T uses a network technology called GSM and Sprint uses one called CDMA. On a fundamental level, they're physically incompatible with each other. Among the four major carriers, Verizon and Sprint could share phones with each other (but they don't), AT&T and T-Mobile can share phones with each other (sometimes) and...that's it. Unless you're looking at smaller, regional carriers or MVNOs, you have limited options to begin with.

Not so fast, though! It's more complex than that. You see, not only does your handset have to be using the same basic technology, it needs to support the proper bands. You see, each phone has radios that can speak to towers on only certain frequencies, and the carriers use different bands for their 3G and 4G data. While, technically, you could take an HTC One X from AT&T to T-Mobile, you'll only get EDGE speeds. If this is a situation you're okay with (and some people are!), more power to you. Or, rather, less power since after tomorrow you won't be able to do this legally anymore.

For what it's worth, there are some Android phones that have the radios that are capable of supporting 3G/4G data on more than one network, like the Nexus 4. You might be affected by this new lack of an exemption, but probably not. And now Verizon really doesn't even seem to care - most of its phones come with unlocked GSM 'global roaming' capabilities right out of the box.

I Have An Old Phone I Want To Unlock, Do I Care?


Nope. Depending on your definition of 'old', of course. However, the Librarian did happen to mention that it sees no harm in allowing users to unlock "legacy" phones that the carrier has since stopped providing its own unlock services for. To quote the Register directly:

"The Register concluded after a review of the statutory factors that an exemption to the
prohibition on circumvention of mobile phone computer programs to permit users to unlock
“legacy” phones is both warranted and unlikely to harm the market for such programs"

So, what counts as a "legacy" phone? That part is a little unclear. However, here's the relevant piece of text from the exemption itself:

Computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, that enable a wireless telephone handset originally acquired from the operator of a wireless telecommunications network or retailer no later than ninety days after the effective date of this exemption to connect to a different wireless telecommunications network, if the operator of the wireless communications network to which the handset is locked has failed to unlock it within a reasonable period of time following a request by the owner of the wireless telephone handset, and when circumvention is initiated by the owner, an individual consumer, who is also the owner of the copy of the computer program in such wireless telephone handset, solely in order to connect to a different wireless telecommunications network, and such access to the network is authorized by the operator of the network.

In other words, if you have an old phone, go to your carrier first. Try to get them to officially unlock it. If they can't fill your request in a 'reasonable period of time', have at it. This leaves a lot up to interpretation, but chances are the Cyber Police aren't coming after you when you try to unlock your Samsung Captivate to use on T-Mobile.

I Have An iPhone I Want To Unlock, Do I Care?


Well, for starters, I'm both flattered and confused that you came to us here at Android Police to answer your question, but we can help! Yes. While the same general caveats apply to incompatible network technology, the iPhone happens to be pretty good at supporting as many bands and radios as possible. It helps simplify the manufacturing process, after all.

More than that, though, some carriers will go out of their way to make sure that unlocked iPhones work on their network. And by "some carriers" I mean T-Mobile. The nation's fourth-largest wireless provider—and notably the only one without the iPhone—has not-so-quietly been tweaking its network in a few areas to make life better for the the formerly-AT&T handsets. Verizon actually sells all of its iPhone 5's unlocked.

If there's going to be a demographic of people that are concerned with this change, it's probably going to be this group. Even then, though, while there are certainly a sizeable number of people who want to migrate, they are still a minority.

I Want To Unlock My Phone's Bootloader, Do I Care?


No. This has absolutely nothing to do with bootloaders at all. Don't worry. In fact, there is a specific exemption to the DMCA that has been added to allow users to run "lawfully obtained software applications, where circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of enabling interoperability of such applications with computer programs on the telephone handset." In other words, rooting, jailbreaking, or unlocking the bootloader on your handset will continue to be something that won't be punishable under the DMCA. Thankfully, the language used in this exemption is broad enough that it doesn't narrow down one method of gaining interoperability over another.

I Don't Use A Smartphone Or Any Phone And I Hate Technology, Do I Care?


Now you're just being silly.

I Own An Unlocked Smartphone Or Will Soon Unlock One, Am I Going To Jail?

Okay, to be clear, we haven't been in a situation where unlocking a smartphone was illegal since at least a year before the first iPhone came out. Things have changed a lot, so predicting what will happen is very difficult. However, you certainly won't go to jail, because unlocking your phone has not become a crime, but a civil wrong.

Lest we forget, we're talking about exemptions to the DMCA here, which technically means that unlawfully unlocking a phone will be considered a violation of copyright law (more specifically, subsections concerning circumventing DRM). This is the same law that has been used to bring damages in the area of $1.92m against a person who downloaded 24 songs (a judgment that was later slashed and has been the source of much contention).

That being said, carriers are not the RIAA, your phone is not a song, and this is a completely different time. I'm not a lawyer, but I would guess that carriers are not about to start suing everyone who unlocks their phones. This would not only be very costly, but it would only hurt public opinion of them even more. Legal action might be taken against people who provide tools for others to unlock their phones, but even that is up to how much companies like AT&T and Verizon want to pursue them. Hard to say how it will go.

I wouldn't flee the country because you unlocked your handset, though. Especially if it's on Verizon or Sprint, because it won't work in most other countries either.

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • RenatoFontesTapia

    I live in Mexico and like to buy at&t unlocked smartphones on ebay.. do I care?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock


  • http://silverfang77.tumblr.com/ Silver Fang

    I think banning unlocking is authoritarian. However, unlocking isn't the great necessity it once was. All carriers have pretty much the same phones now, quite different from the past decade when you could only get really good phones on two or three carriers.

  • Brad

    That is absolutely stupid. What if you OWN your phone (bought it outright) I live in Canada so it's not applicable to me, but I figured I'd ask anyway just out of curiosity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Hideaki02 Ivan Fossa-Ferrari

      Then buy a Factory-unlocked phone. Those will still be around.

  • ProductFRED

    People who don't understand how technology works should not be in charge of decision-making. What this asshat just decided is similar to locking your television to a certain provider. Imagine that one day, it was decided that it's now illegal to plug a DirecTV receiver into your television, which currently runs on Time Warner Cable.

    • McLean Riley

      This would make sense if Time Warner gave you the TV for free on contract with them and you left for Dish. I agree that it shouldn't be illegal, but you aren't talking about the same thing.

      • Joseph Cascio

        Actually It would be the same if Time Warner gave you the TV subsidized with a two-year contract. After the two-years the TV is your property and you should be able to do what you want. i.e. switch providers.

        • McLean Riley

          I was using the opposite scenario. I am not disagreeing with ProductFRED, just pointing out that his analogy was a little off. Also, the way it looks, after 2 years the carrier would stop supporting it anyway, then you are allowed to legally unlock it again. So my point still stands.

          • didibus

            Don't distract from the real question... Is unlocking a locked phone copyright infringement?

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            well according to AP quote no...so why is it?

            "The 2006 ruling pointed out that the issue had little do with protecting copyright and more to do with protecting a business model (a fair point!), and the 2010 ruling merely upheld the previous exemption. However, it's not getting renewed a third time."

          • didibus

            So why did they not renew it? It sounds either lazy or fishy to me, that they clearly see that it is not a copyright issue, yet are keeping this business model protection law in place as is, without change or revision. I understand maybe that this law doesn't have as much impact as it used to, considering the current landscape, but it is their job to revise the law, that's why they are getting paid, the workers at the Librarian of congress and the DMCA are not volunteering for their position, so being lazy is not a valid argument. Either they can argue this is about copyright protection, or they need to change the law, no matter what the landscape is. Why leave cruft and bloat in the law, old forgotten laws that don;t reflect current context always end up coming back years later abused as loopholes for weird new scenarios and cases.

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            fuck if i know

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        Agreed, his analogy is quite flawed. And if DirecTV sold me one of those almost-borderless 46" Samsung LED TV's for like $300 on the condition I use it with DirecTV service for 2 years, I'd be on that in a heartbeat.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

          I'd happily do the same with Sky here in the UK.

        • MicroNix

          So the carriers really want us to no longer purchase subsidized phones? Bring on the Nexus phones purchased from Google Play! And then lets start a petition that the rates must drop for those that don't have subsidized phones because charging the same should be illegal all day long too!!

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            now thats not a bad idea ^^

          • GigiAUT

            Austria already has a "open" packages on some networks that are cheaper than taking one with a phone bundled. It was the best idea seeing as a lot of people, like myself, buy unlocked phones.

      • mrsbelpit

        The thing is, the carrier has protection - your ETF. There is absolutely, positively, no reason not to unlock a phone. If you leave them, they will be paid the remaining subsidy.

        • MadAndronicus

          I have nothing to add/contribute to this story. Just wanna give a shutout to mrsbelpit... Hey mrsbelpit, miss ya! :)

          • mrsbelpit

            Dammit, just saw this. Missed you too, buddy! I hope you see this.

          • MadAndronicus


      • Elias

        You could hate time Warner so much you're willing to keep paying your contract and let your decoder sit unused in a drawer. Or you could move to a place where time Warner signal is terrible. You still have the right to use the TV you bought,even if subsidized. But you'll still have to honor your contract or pay a contract recision fine.

  • Bakku Simwel

    Really? Everywhere or just in USA? If it's only in USA, please change the headline to "Carrier-Unlocking Smartphones Will Be Illegal in USA Tomorrow: Here's How (And If) It Affects You"
    You've got loyal readers outside America, do you know?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      And we do quite a bit of coverage to cater to those outside the U.S.. We appreciate you guys.

      I also figured that it's pretty self-evident that one law changing on one day can't possibly affect the entire world, but I've updated the headline to clarify. :P

      • persiphone

        NDAA 2011 did in fact change the entire world in one day

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

          Well, in the event that we start covering the U.S. military here on Android Police, we'll be sure to be more specific about which country's laws we're discussing in the headline...

          • persiphone

            you mentioned "one law".....now change the parameters? Admit that you were wrong.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

            No, thanks. I'm good.

          • persiphone

            You are "good" (?) WTF? But you are wrong. I wonder if you can sleep well at night knowing that you're "good" with this Administrations dictate that killing anyone, anywhere, regardless of nationality, regardless of citizenship, sex, age creed, is probable cause, regardless of rational thought.....It's sad that you won't respond intellectually... How the hell did you get this job? Is it really that easy?

          • MeCampbell30

            Cool politics, bro. Do you go on all the tech sites and make off topic rants?

          • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

            A) You're a troll, go find your bridge.
            B) If you really care about semantics so much, keep in mind the distinction that the NDAA is still a US law that governs troops acting throughout the world, it's not a law governing the world.
            C) Still a troll...

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            doesn't he mean the NDAA 2012 not 2011?

    • http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.pavel Benjamin Pavel

      Seems you are new around here, almost every week they have news about Android around the world.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Illegal everywhere, as stated by the Imaginary Law Making Body That Governs The Entire World? Were you so injured by the fact that you had to read a couple sentences to figure out this was about the USA? It's not a big deal.

      • didibus

        I don't know why you are condescending to the guy. The headline was lacking precision. This could have very well been in the EU, or Canada, etc. And American readers would have had to read the article and deduce, by the fact you were using another's country carriers and bodies that it must not be the case for America. But let's not forget, nothing in the article showed that this was only in America. True in America, does not logically concludes to False elsewhere. So even if you were to deduce that clearly it was taking America as an example, if you are an out of country reader, you would still wonder... Is it the same were I live.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

          "nothing in the article showed that this was only in America."

          Except discussing the DMCA, the Librarian of Congress, the four major U.S. carriers and specifically stating "in the U.S." in the first subsection, none of which are even remotely relevant or have jurisdiction outside the U.S.

          I get wanting clarity, but let's be fair here. If we wrote an article discussing EU policy and didn't clarify it in the headline and American readers started complaining because a few seconds of their time had been wasted by having to read a paragraph or two, we'd tell them "Look, there are other countries besides just you guys. Get over it and quit expecting everyone to tailor their coverage to your country."

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Eh, I do agree that the intro or title should have said U.S. The first subsection is way too far into the story, and the first sentence makes a sweeping declaration.

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            i agree with both. Heading should have stated US but at the same time to bitch about it is total childness.How hard is it to think and read.....even i can do that and my reading and spelling is atrocious!

          • HopelesslyFaithful

            i actually spelled atrocious by sounding it out...holy shit it is a good day!

          • GraveUypo

            well, knowing the people complaining are not americans, you have to assume english is not their first language and some of them might not be that good at it. he for instance doesn't know the expression "i'm good" and took it to the letter as if it was bragging from Eric.

            while i agree all the bitching was uncalled for, how hard is it to put that into the title to avoid this kind of thing? We could have saved enough keystrokes to fill the great lakes... 3 times over!

  • FrillArtist

    I'm an ignorant iSheep who knows nothing about technology...should I care?

    • Tino


  • http://twitter.com/Bl4ckpheniX aaron nyquist

    Not that I am concerned about the law breaking down my door over something this petty. but there is already a petition on the whitehouse website to have the president speak, and maybe do something about this. It needs a certain amount of signatures to get reviewed so go check it out, and sign it!


    Please post link for readers to sign!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      You just did! :D

  • http://www.williamint.com William Aleman

    Who cares? I'm still going to unlock my samsung captivate and going to T-Mobile. And if I have a new smartphone again who cares? I'm still gonna unlock whatever I want, f**k the carriers they take way too much money.

  • VoiceofSky

    meh,don't care .. =)

  • LAmDroid

    thanks for the breakdown.
    But unlocking is more of an issue when it comes down to swapping a device over from AT&T to other GSM prepaid services. Or auctioning/selling off the device to recoup money.

    Now those products will become illegal to sell.

    I think the core question to the matter would be, what's wrong with unlocking a device? Protecting a business model? sighs

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Uh, what? There's nothing here that will make selling your phone illegal.

      • didibus

        True, but I get his point. It makes it harder to sell of your phone, because the person buying it might be on another carrier, and where normally, you could have just unlocked it prior to selling it, now you won't be able to. So you reduce the amount of people that can potentially buy your phones. Now you'd have to sell to someone who is on the same carrier as you.

  • ergu

    I'm a human being living on planet earth, do I care?

    You had better. This is a powerful government, in bed with big business, protecting anti-competitive behavior, at the expense of consumer choice. If you don't care about this, please leave for Mars.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Oh boy, politically-charged hyperbole! A post involving the DMCA wouldn't be complete without it.

      • Joseph Cascio

        He's actually right though. This is a huge decision for the government to make. If you unlock a phone it will either work or it won't work on another carrier. It's up to the consumer to do the research. After two-years or if your pay the ETF, the device is yours. Making unlocking a phone illegal does nothing but take away a right that we as citizens should have. You have to ask yourself, "What's next?"

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          Except when you actually look at the mobile landscape's natural evolution - requiring unlockability just isn't a big deal anymore.

          Can you buy basically any GSM phone unlocked in the US via any number of giant online retailers? Yes, and then you can use it on any number of very affordable GSM MVNO's, AT&T, or T-Mobile if it's pentaband. Because GSM carriers honestly don't care if you bring your own phone. Believe it or not, that *saves* them money.

          Verizon now sells all of its phones basically carrier unlocked out of the box. I've tested it on the Spectrum II, the DROID DNA, and the Note II - they all work on AT&T with an AT&T SIM out of the box, just enter the proper APN info. Verizon sells the iPhone 5 completely unlocked.

          Google sells a $300 smartphone that works on any GSM carrier.

          Advances in software-defined radios will eventually result in multi-band LTE phones that can be purchased unlocked and set up for most carriers.

          If you choose to shackle yourself to a two-year contract and accept a hardware subsidy, I've never seen the problem with a carrier saying "well, this phone's stuck with us, then" as being a caveat of that decision. You're the one with the choice, you're the one signing the contract.

          • ergu

            This isn't about "requiring unlockabiity", it's about the inverse, outlawing unlocking. Customers seeking legitimate options should not be turned into outlaws, should they?

          • didibus

            And what if that landscape was to change again in 2 or 3 years? This is a law, not a clause of your agreement contract. That is the problem with this. Unlocking your phone should not be considered copyright infringement, because it is not, or someone really needs to tell me how it is, and what copyright is infringed.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

            These exceptions are reviewed every three years. You (read: probably the EFF) can argue the case with the Library of Congress if the landscape changes in three years. I...I talked about that in the beginning of the article...

          • ergu

            It's a shame they can't write general enough legislation that it doesn't have to be corrected every three years.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

            Actually, it's great they can't do that. Legislation that's general enough to not need correction or adaptation as technology changes is legislation that can be used to bring criminal charges against all kinds of innocent behavior. In fact, that's part of what the whole Aaron Swartz thing is talking about now. He was prosecuted relentlessly over things that were questionably illegal. That's oversimplifying it, but suffice to say if the DMCA was more vague, it would be an even worse piece of legislation than it already is.

          • ergu

            WHOA! Hang on there, cowboy! Vague does not equal general. At *all*. General statement are high-level. They can be vague or very clear and concise. Narrow legislation like what we have in the DMCA can be concise in a limited scope, but is inherently vague with regard to how it reflects the government's position on separate, tangential matters. For example, "corporations shall not engage in anti-competitive business practices," is very general. It applies to all types of corporations, and gives a very clear message about the government's values. You should be able to tell, at a high level, if you are violating the intent of the law. And intent is extremely important. I do believe there are countless examples of judges ruling based heavily on whether the intent of the law was met. However, "individuals shall not circumvent access restrictions" is so much more narrow in scope. It defines actions that violate, but it gives no context! There is no intent apparent in a statement like that, at least, not anywhere near that of the more general statement I suggested above.

            And to address your example, Swartz was prosecuted not under general, concise rules that you think are bad, but in violation of the existing, narrow DMCA legislation on the books TODAY.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

            Okay. You seriously need to do some reading there...um...tiger? For starters, you're kinda just making up things and saying "the DMCA is like this when it should be like this." Here is a link to 17 USC § 1201, the section of the DMCA that is relevant to our current discussion: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/1201

            Your quoted text, "individuals shall not circumvent access restrictions" is nowhere in this section. Or any section. In fact if you search for that particular phrase in Google, literally the only thing on the entire internet that shows up is your comment. In other words, what you're saying is that, without reading the DMCA, you've decided it was written poorly and you're making up quotes to tear down. This is called a straw man.

            Finally, no amount of changes to the DMCA would've helped Aaron Swartz because he wasn't *charged* for violation of the DMCA. He was charged with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, both of which were passed in 1986. Back then not only were smartphones or even common cellphones barely even imaginable, but consumer PCs were hardly a thing. And so when they made general, "spirit of the law" type rules, it ended up being inadvertently applied to a huge amount of activities that are almost entirely harmless today. Aaron Swartz was prosecuted for violating the CFAA, in no small part, because the prosecutors used broad wording to interpret TOS violations as criminal charges.

            Also, there's nothing narrow about the DMCA at all. It was signed into law in 1998, at a time when sharing a single song over the internet didn't seem all that common or feasible. Statutory damages were implemented on a scale from $750-150,000 per infringing work because, at the time, it was assumed that most copyright infringers would be for-profit organizations. Not some lady with a laptop. And do you know what happened? Multiple cases were brought forward that resulted in rewards of hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in damages. Hell, there was a case where the RIAA quite literally said that Limewire owed it more money than exists in the entire world. It wanted $72 trillion. How is that not overly broad?

            I'm sorry, but there is just no possible way you can look at existing law and say the problem is that it's too narrow. The problem is its too broad, poorly defines different exchanges of data between computers, and yes it absolutely needs to have a mechanism to adapt to the times. The DMCA is a horribly outdated document and it needs to be scrapped, but the one thing it got (slightly) right is acknowledging in some small form that technology won't always be the same as it was in 1998.

      • ergu

        There is no hyperbole, and this is apolitical. This is about your rights, which transcend politics. Would you be okay with a law that says if you want to stop filling up at Exxon, and switch to Shell, you must buy a new car? How about if you wanted to a new apartment, but the law dictated that you must buy all new furniture?

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          I don't think you quite get what this makes illegal. Or what that illegality entails.

          The government has no hand in 99.98% of DMCA violations - it is almost entirely a piece of civil, not criminal, legislation. The DMCA is a copyright infringement rulebook.

          Removing the exception makes unlocking your phone "illegal" like tearing the mattress tag off your bed is "illegal." The point is not to attack consumers. No one's going to get sued because they unlocked their phone. There is no damage to the plaintiff there - it would be a valueless lawsuit. Could the carrier terminate your service, or void your warranty? Sure. But rooting your phone is grounds for service termination or voiding the warranty, even if it's "legal" to do it.

          The only people getting sued under this law would be those shady unlocking services you see spamming your search results in Google.

          The point of allowing carriers to lock phones to the network is to preserve a business model. If consumers decide they don't like that model, they have options, and those options don't require buying a beat up old flip phone. You can get anything unlocked these days.

          Do you consider your rights violated if the DirecTV satellite box you got for free / bought subsidized won't work with Dish if you decide to change providers (assuming technically it could)?

          I'm sorry, this is a lot of people getting worked up over something that really isn't a big deal.

          • ergu

            Okay, that was really long, and I have to run, so rather than try to address all of it, I'm going to first say, I assure you, I have a very good understanding of the DMCA, and I am against probably 99% of it. In my opinion, the Federal government has no business in this space. It is legislation that was BOUGHT by short-sighted cartels that never saw a dime of profit loss due to copyright infringement. That's my crazy biased opinion, love it or hate it. If you're okay with the DMCA and think it's legitimately protecting uber-rich corporations from ruin, then, hey, I can't produce a magic chart that proves you wrong, but I don't think I'm exactly mr tinfoil hat for what I think either.

            Next, I want to jump to your analogy: If the DirecTV box did not work with Dish, but end users found a way to get it to work, I don't think it's the government's business if DirecTV could not hold onto customers. Just my two cents.

          • ergu

            To come back to your blasphemy: "The point of allowing carriers to lock phones to the network is to preserve a business model."

            Wow, that offends me so much. It preserves an *anti-competitive* business model. Sherman Anti-Trust, in my opinion, exists to keep the economy booming, while DMCA exists to keep a few select players rolling in everybody else's money. Why? Because they innovated? No, because they locked customers in, and competitors out.

            "If consumers decide they don't like that model, they have options"

            Yeah... for now they do. Why should we have to wait 3 years for the law to change to be able to take matters into our own hands if corporations decide to grace us with fairness? Here's a statement I assume we can agree on, thieves will surface both on the side of freeloading consumers as well as the side of the faceless corporation. Why does the DMCA protect entrenched corporations so vigorously, as if consumers need no protection from corporations?

            "The only people getting sued under this law would be those shady unlocking services you see spamming your search results"

            Remember that the only reason why you see them spamming you is because there is an established consumer demand to open devices up. Why should that desire be denied? Is some innovator going to be discouraged from bringing new tech to market? I would say no. And that's pure opinionated speculation. But I seriously doubt that anybody else has anything more concrete to offer.

            I watched the Internet democratize technology as it was raised to prominence by visionaries in the 90s, under the noses of legislators and major corporate players. Remember the way the Internet was regarded by the mainstream media back then? It was something for nerds, and nobody else. Because of that, nobody paid attention to the fact that it was a faster, more efficient way of doing business than anything currently in play. And it was doing it with much less bandwidth.

            Today, the government has leased out GHz of wireless bandwidth to Verizon and others, of which, huge swaths are inactive, in order to keep the false scarcity (of bandwidth) alive. They're milking your dollars out in dribs and drabs in order to project fake growth to their shareholders.

            If the government said, "this bandwidth, which we own, that we're leasing to you, is available on the stipulation that it must always be subleased with an open-device policy" I would be a lot happier. It would reflect that the government is interested in actually enforcing the 100+ year old antitrust legislation that was created because anti-competitive practices were observably making America worse. But that's not where we are. We are in a place where what I am saying is regarded as 'politically charged', and 'hyperbole', despite the fact that I'm criticizing legislation that has held up through 3 presidents, and both major parties.

            I implore you, consider that just because you haven't been burned yet by DMCA, it doesn't mean it hasn't opened a floodgate for it.

          • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

            Wow, and you complained about his comment being long... :)

  • Chris

    I highly doubt this will affect me, BUT.. being an unlocked international GS3 owner (i9300) who plans to move to the US, this gives me pause for thought. Highly doubt it will apply though, because I bought the handset unlocked.
    Kinda sucks that I'll only get EDGE speeds and basically have a choice of T-mobile or AT+T but faster speeds aren't worth paying for another handset or a 2-year contract.

    • Justin Dugan

      You might get HSPA+ on that guy on ATT or T-Mobile. Check around and see which carrier is better supported. If you are somewhere where t mobile has good coverage, they have some pretty awesome prepaid options. That's what I use for my Nexus 4.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      The Galaxy S III i9300 will get 3G HSPA+ on AT&T.

    • contriver87

      You won't have EDGE speeds on AT&T. T-Mobile is also rolling out HSPA+ on 1900MHz so 3G/4G will work once a tower is refarmed if it isn't already.

  • http://www.facebook.com/yaarov.skimaan Yaarov Skimaan

    I'm using a dumb phone, Sanyo 200. Its major features: Text messaging with numeric keypads, voice dialing, color display, speakerphone. Therefore I'm the silly and dumb guy who has never worried about locking the phone..

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      How did you end up here?

    • fixxmyhead

      then get out of here

  • Asphyx

    I would have much less issue with being able to unlock my own phone (like the article says it's not worth doing for most due to the standard differences), but rhey should also add to it that if the phone IS compatible with another provider then the provider should be forced to do the unlocking and relocking (to thier system) for you.
    If I have a phone that would work on AT&T and want to switch to T-Mobile then T-Mobile should be compelled to facilitate the unlocking for my unit. (Same the other way around)
    The whole Unlocking issue needs to go away altogether if you ask me. Lets set an LTE standard all carriers must follow and then no one should need to unlock thier phone just shop for the best contract they can get and make these guys actually compete on pricing.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      AT&T is generally happy to unlock any phone on their network so long as you've paid off your 2-year contract. Something most people don't seem to know. And I don't see why they should be obligated to unlock it before that point, unless you plan on paying that hefty ETF.

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

        I wouldn't say they are happy to do it. About two years ago I spent several hours transferring around and arguing with people to unlock a phone that was well out of contract. A few people tried to charge me an unlocking fee, some told me that the company doesn't unlock phones, and a couple of times I was told an unlock code would be sent to me and it never was. I finally gave up on getting the phone unlocked. I've known a few people on both T-Mobile and AT&T with similar experiences. It might be a part of their public policy, but they clearly avoid following through with the promise.

  • http://twitter.com/Myhai91 Mihai


    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Fuck yeah?

  • Pedro Alvizu

    I don't live in the US, but I buy my phones unclocked at amazon, and so does many people from my country. Will this affects us? Since Amazon is in the US

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock


  • Telcel mexico

    I have hybrid smartphone with CDMA and GSM Frecuencies, in USA I have verizon(CDMA) and Mexico had Telcel( GSM), is HTC Imagio,

  • http://twitter.com/WillieFDiazSF William Diaz

    Point blank, I want all my GSM capable phones unlocked. That is one of the reasons I stayed with Sprint (at the time all GSM mode phones were unlocked by default). IF I chose to go to another country, or change providers and pay my ETF, I bought my phone, it is mine, I should be able to take it with me and use whatever network I chose. While some people will say since I didnt ride out my contract and got the phone at a discount, I should not unlock, however, if you look at the subsidy pricing of today's phones due to bargain negotiation carriers have since they have only gotten larger, ETF plan costs, and the cost recoup by the network (usually 90-180 days after purchase) to pay off the subsidy pricing discount they offered the customer - You gotta think, if I want to leave a carrier 9 months to a year in, I should be able to, and use the same device. Its paid off, not to mention the ETF well covers that cost. Generally it costs MORE to buy a phone, and use the ETF within 1 month later and cancel, than it would be to just outright buy the phone from the get go. However, as far as I know, not a single carrier will offer an unlock code upfront when you buy the device, and most still require 90 days of service OR MORE depending on the type of account the device will be on, before they will unlock it anyway. So that route is negated. Some carriers sell out of box unlocked (Verizon) but they are limited in the GSM aspect, others, like in Europe will offer unlocked devices upfront, but I do not live there. So in short, unlocking a phone should not only not be illegal anytime you chose to do so, but carriers, even CDMA ones should be obligated to give you all access codes and unlock codes to the device for the customer to use how they see fit before they leave. Matter of fact, I think if I had an AT&T phone (even an iPhone) I should be able to go to T-Mobile and ask T-Mobile to unlock it for me, so that way they gain a happy customer, I gain my phone unlocked (required) to use on that network. So its a win win. There is no reason only the selling carrier should have a special code, and another carrier cant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

    I bet the good folks at the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) must be angry about this (so am I) as this ruling takes away user freedom in favour of extra money for the carriers.

    I paid for the phone so why shouldn't I choose whose service I use with it? Regardless of contract, pay as you go (prepaid) or SIM-free.

  • abqnm

    I love how Verizon has gone from locking down the GSM features of their phones to selling most all of them unlocked now, but has since stopped allowing unlockable bootloaders. This seems to be their new focus. They must not be losing much money from unlockers anymore but they feel that they are losing that $15 a month from the people that just want to tether...

    I think that some people just want to see the world burn. Verizon tries to screw customers as much as they can while still keeping most of them. I don't know about you, but if I go to a restaurant and they treat me like shit, charge me extra or tell me I can't order my meal how I want it, or God forbid, force me to share it with everyone at the table for an extra cost, I would leave regardless of how good the food is. I think what I am saying here is we need more high quality "restaurants" with decent prices and respect for consumers.

  • HopelesslyFaithful

    not sure if this is stated but i am still confused by the library of congress:

    "The 2006 ruling pointed out that the issue had little do with protecting copyright and more to do with protecting a business model (a fair point!), and the 2010 ruling merely upheld the previous exemption. However, it's not getting renewed a third time."

    So if it has nothing to do with copy rights so why the FUCK is it in the DMCA??? Shouldn't they be spending time and money to change company policy to protect themselves than lobbing to bend government to their business needs? Why the fuck should we loose any rights to protect a damn business model? If it needs government to protect it than there is something wrong with the business model...i don't care if it (the right) is so small i wont notice. A right is a right! liberty is liberty.....wtf

  • Ramit Singh

    That's the biggest load of **** ever!

  • OmarioAmriky

    I could give less of a fuck what a 3000 year old has to say about my phone.

  • pint

    What the hell, Americans?! In Germany (and the rest of the world, I guess) when you buy smartphone on contract, it IS unlocked (except for iDevices, lulz). You can straight pop out the SIM card and insert the one of your carrier of choice. It just works. Magical.

    • GraveUypo

      i don't think you get as much subside though.
      over here if you can get it down to half the total price it's jackpot, AND it only works for older phones, not the cutting-edge stuff, while in the US they get some of the newest for FREE.

      i paid US $800 for my galaxy s3 in june, and it was cheap, because the average price was $1100. i wouldn't mind being carrier-locked if i could buy it for $150.

      heck i could get a contract on two other carriers (i actually ... do use 3 different phones each on a different carrier, for work), get 3 gs3's and still be in the green.

  • Max Barlow

    So... This just applies to the US?

  • http://www.facebook.com/alfuen00 Alberto Fuentes

    Thanks to the lord! Here in México is legally to unlock your phone in fact theres a legislation if you buy your phone in cash (prepaid model) or you finish your contract the operator had the obligation to provide the unlock at the users request! The three major operators here uses the same tecnology so phones are fully compatible, the only one providing LTE uses the same tecnology as AT&T right now im using a note2 i317 unlocked phone

  • Bilal Shaikh

    Wait, why is unlocking a problem to carriers? dont you pay the full price of the phone if
    you end the contract?

  • afsdg

    Only for America. In some countries, it is illegal for the carrier to lock the phone.

  • wmwmi

    All the more reason to buy a Nexus 4 and put it on Straight Talk, right?


  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JJRZ4V6N477HM2MVURRZSKXJMY EddieT

    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-unlocking-cell-phones-legal/1g9KhZG7 .

    There's still time! 10 days left to get 100,000 minimum signatures.. At present, there is 67,000 sigs.. Please pass this petition link around to help make a difference! And, btw you don't have to reside in the USA to sign, and if u need to create an account u don't have to put any identifying info in it

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JJRZ4V6N477HM2MVURRZSKXJMY EddieT

    this is on topic: please google:
    "white house petition make unlocking cell phones legal"

    and sign it. we need 100,000 signatures, before Feb 23rd, but at present we're only at 67k. About(dot)com and a majority of the major Tech Press is urging us to act now