1. Computing
Melanie Pinola

Unlocking Your Cell Phone Is Now Illegal; Here's How to Vote Against This

By January 28, 2013

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As of January 26, 2013, it's illegal in the US to unlock your phone without your mobile carrier's permission. Unlocking your cell phone means you can use it on any wireless provider, but it's useful for more than just switching carriers. If you want to sell your used phone to someone else or travel internationally with your cell phone and avoid hefty data roaming fees, you'll want to unlock your phone.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) had an exemption that permitted cell phone unlocking, but the Library of Congress and US Copyright Office have let that exemption expire...which means unlocking your phone is now a crime--even after their contracts have expired, subject to fines of $200 to $2,500 or higher criminal penalties including jail time. The full legal docket is here and ITworld has a nice overview of the issues here.

As with jailbreaking and rooting, unlocking your phone gives you more control over it. I personally think that this unlocking ban is terrible for mobile users, especially global travelers. If you agree, join this petition to make unlocking cell phones legal. We need 100,000 signatures by February 23.

(By the way, in the news you might see writers saying that unlocking/jailbreaking is now illegal, but the two terms are actually very different. Unlocking is different from jailbreaking and rooting--here's how.)

Related: Free your Android phone or iPhone by unlocking and/or jailbreaking/rooting it

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If this illegal issue bothers you, and you want to have the option to be able to unlock a device you believe you paid for and own, then sign this official Petition and pass it along:

There’s still time! 12 days left to get 100,000 minimum signatures.. At present, there is 60,000 sigs.. Please pass this petition link around to help make a difference!

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