Obama Signs Cell Phone Unlocking Bill Into Law, iPhone Unlocking No Longer Illegal


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

United States President Barack Obama will today sign a bill that makes cell phone unlocking legal again, writing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act into law following its unanimous approval by the Senate and House of Representatives.

Obama has long supported the act, which was originally introduced via a 2013 "We the People" petition that gathered more than 100,000 signatures calling for cell phone unlocking to be made legal. It first became illegal to unlock a cell phone in January of 2013, after an exception in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act expired, restricting U.S. customers from shifting their service to other carriers or using their devices abroad with local SIM cards.

Now that cell phone unlocking is once again legal, consumers and third-party unlocking services will be able to unlock paid-for cell phones and tablets without receiving express permission from carriers and without facing criminal penalties. The changes will make it easier for consumers to take their devices to the carrier of their choice after contractual obligations have been fulfilled and it will also be easier to use existing devices abroad.
The bill not only restores the rights of consumers to unlock their phones, but ensures that they can receive help doing so if they lack the technological savvy to unlock on their own.

The most important part of this joint effort is that it will have a real impact. As long as their phone is compatible and they have complied with their contracts, consumers will now be able to enjoy the freedom of taking their mobile service -- and a phone they already own -- to the carrier that best fits their needs. At a time when partisan gridlock all too often threatens progress on everyday issues that matter to consumers, working together we listened to your voices, and the American people benefited as a result.
In December of 2013, U.S. cellular carriers and the FCC also came to an agreement over a set of voluntary principles that will make it easier for wireless customers to unlock their devices and switch from carrier to carrier after a contract has been fulfilled.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Article Link: Obama Signs Cell Phone Unlocking Bill Into Law, iPhone Unlocking No Longer Illegal


macrumors 65816
Jul 19, 2006
This legislation should never have been needed...

This has been dealt with administratively through the Copyright Office in the past. From this article:

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is illegal to circumvent a "technological measure" to access a copyrighted work. Every three years, the Copyright Office grants exemptions to that rule.

In previous reviews, the Copyright Office had granted an exemption for cell-phone unlocking, allowing people to switch to a new network as long as they had completed their old contract. But the office didn't renew the exemption in its 2012 review, making the practice illegal. Theoretically, a person could have gotten a five-year jail sentence for unlocking a phone without the carrier's permission.

Cell-phone unlocking had been a relatively obscure issue, but the Copyright Office's ruling prompted a major backlash. More than 114,000 people signed a White House petition in protest. They felt that if they bought a device, they should be able to use it however they wanted.
Why did the Copyright Office reverse their earlier exceptions for smartphones?


macrumors 68000
Dec 28, 2009
This is the only good thing he has done in his Presidency.
Hell yea!!! I agree 110%. But others sadly believe he's God.

On the side note, this restores things exactly how they were prior to Jan. 2013, correct? The freaking phone should not have to be paid off to be unlocked. The consumer should be able to unlock it when he damn well feels like it. It's HIS phone.

Chupa Chupa

macrumors G5
Jul 16, 2002
Really a lot of election year smoke and mirrors. The law really only will help a slim minority of cell phone users because it only makes unlocking legal once a contract is 100% completed. So if you are traveling overseas but still on contract... sorry. But when you are at the end of an ATT contract ATT will unlock your phone anyway. T-Mobile's phones are unlocked anyway.

And the funny thing is this legislation is temporary. At the next DMCA review period the LOC can make unlocking illegal again.

The only people this helps are people that bought a locked phone via a 3rd party and ATT wouldn't unlock that phone. You now can for the time being.

So again, lots of smoke and mirror. Sorry you got excited for nothing.