Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Unlocking Your Phone is Now a Crime

If you live in the United States, starting Jan. 25, 2013, it is illegal to unlock your iPhone, or other cellphone, in most cases.

When people want to change phone companies without having to buy a new iPhone, many people "unlock" their iPhones. Unlocking refers to using software to modify the phone so it works with more than one phone carrier. Some phone companies will unlock phones under certain conditions, others are a bit less welcoming of this (after all, if you're locked to their network, the likelihood is that you'll stay their customer). As a result, some people unlock their phones on their own or pay other (non-phone) companies to do it for them.

Thanks to the new ruling by the U.S. Library of Congress, though, this is no longer legal.

The Ruling
The Library of Congress has authority over the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a 1998 law designed to govern copyright issues in the digital age. Thanks to this authority, the Library of Congress provides exceptions to and interpretations of the law.
In Oct. 2012, the Library of Congress ruled on how the DMCA affects unlocking all cellphones, including the iPhone. That ruling, which starts on page 16 of the linked PDF, went into effect on Jan. 25, 2013. It says that, because there are a number of phones that users can buy unlocked right out of the box (instead of having to unlock them with software), unlocking cellphones is now a violation of the DMCA and is illegal.