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White House Petition Lobbies to Make Cell Phone Unlocking Legal

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
51,482
13,110



As of January 26, it is illegal for U.S. mobile phone users to unlock newly purchased cell phones without express permission from their cell phone carriers. Cell phone unlocking used to be possible as part of an exemption from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), but the exception ended following a ruling by the Library of Congress's Copyright Office in October of 2012.

Sina Khanifar, co-founder of OpenSignal, is protesting the new law with a whitehouse.gov petition calling for the decision to be rescinded. In 2004, Khanifar started Cell-Unlock.com, a business centered around unlocking mobile phones.

The site led to a cease and desist letter from Motorola, which was successfully nullified by the founder of Stanford's Cyberlaw Clinic, Jennifer Granick, who went on to lobby for the now-defunct DMCA exemption for unlocking phones.

As Khanifar mentions in his petition, the loss of the exemption hinders mobile phone users who wish to unlock their phones for use abroad and it also devalues the devices.
Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad. It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full.

The Libraran noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked.
Khanifar needs approximately 13,000 additional signatures on his petition, which ends on February 23, to receive a formal White House response. The White House has a policy of issuing a response to petitions that garner at least 100,000 signatures. The signatures do not guarantee a reversal of the policy, but they will ensure that the issue is officially addressed.

Though cell phone unlocking is now illegal on an individual basis for phones purchased after January 26, 2013, users are still able to have phones unlocked through carriers. Unlocked cell phones can also be purchased from carriers at unsubsidized prices.

Article Link: White House Petition Lobbies to Make Cell Phone Unlocking Legal
 

Lesser Evets

macrumors 68040
Jan 7, 2006
3,508
1,271
Aw. So cute... does anyone believe these "petitions" are going anywhere aside from in the trash?
 
Comment

objc

macrumors regular
Mar 14, 2007
159
11
If you've paid it off, it's yours. How is it that a telecom company can tell you what network you can use YOUR device with?
 
Comment

WildCowboy

Administrator/Editor
Staff member
Jan 20, 2005
17,579
1,601
Aw. So cute... does anyone believe these "petitions" are going anywhere aside from in the trash?

Well, the point is that if it gets to 100,000 signatures, the government under its own rules will have to respond. Now, whether they'll actually say anything in their response is another matter.

But they did come out firmly against building a Death Star, so there's that.
 
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dusk007

macrumors 68040
Dec 5, 2009
3,390
63
I don't get why need it to be illegal. They could just make the contract exit so expensive that it isn't worth it. You gradually pay off the phone and if you exit in the first few month you pay extra or hand the hardware back.

It is done already they don't need to criminalize anything. In any case I doubt the ban would deter anyone anyway. In some european contracts it is said to be illegal and nobody cares. If it is possible, people end up doing it.
 
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Codyak

macrumors 6502
Apr 6, 2012
370
127
DC
I already went around AT&T to get my phone unlocked for overseas, but signed this anyway. The fact an 83 year old Reagan appointee was the final say in this blows my mind, half the people over 65 I know barely understand how to turn a phone on or off.
 
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Chupa Chupa

macrumors G5
Jul 16, 2002
14,834
7,394
They are petitioning the wrong branch of gov't. They should be petitioning Congress as the Library of Congress Copyright Office oversees DMCA regulations. LOC is not part of the executive branch so not much the WH can directly do other than get on the bully pulpit, but I think the president has more pressing issues w/ the upcoming sequester days away
 
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iMikeT

macrumors 68020
Jul 8, 2006
2,304
1
California
As much as I would like to think this may be a glimmer of hope, this will probably make no difference because we have a government owned by these very corporations and the politicians in office are spineless to do anything about it.
 
Comment

AppleMark

macrumors 6502a
Jun 17, 2009
849
199
The CCTV Capital of the World
I understand that a carrier will want a phone locked (hence you have a subsidised phone) so that you use it on their network alone and not use another.

However, if you sign up for a contract of say 18 months to 2 years, you are paying for the phone anyway. So why the fuss if you unlock it and use another carriers SIM? You will still need to pay for the initial contract which allowed you the subsidised phone, so you would be paying twice in any case.... Right?


So why the need to make it illegal to unlock your own phone?
 
Comment

kiantech

macrumors regular
Jun 9, 2007
236
9
I hate the argument of you can unlock it after your contract is up because they subsidize the phone. The problem is the cell companies charge an huge early termination fee for this reason. Charging twice for the same reason.
 
Comment

phillipduran

macrumors 65816
Apr 30, 2008
1,055
607
I hate the argument of you can unlock it after your contract is up because they subsidize the phone. The problem is the cell companies charge an huge early termination fee for this reason. Charging twice for the same reason.

It's just nutty that they have the opinion that you should be locked in because you will incur additional fees from the use of their network which they depend on. You're only obligated to your signup fees and your monthly bill. Paying that should be the end of your obligations to them. You own the device.

They think they are legally due your patronage. That's like saying I have to go to the Ford dealership for oil changes instead of Jiffy Lube. Lame.
 
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Small White Car

macrumors G4
Aug 29, 2006
10,929
1,239
Washington DC
Seriously it's just a phone. Doesn't the US government have better things to worry about?

How corporations and citizens interact is exactly what I want my government thinking about.


Helluva lot more useful than having them decide who I can marry, what drugs I can take, and what I'm allowed to say on the radio.
 
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